Archive for the ‘Climb/Ski/Mntneering’ Category

Mindfulness in the Mountains #2

30/10/2012

 Gunshots in the Wilderness
#2 in a Series – Mindfulness in the Mountains

The mist clears, the gunshots arrive

It seemed that spirit was working with us on this day on the water, during Mountain Spirit Institute‘s recent program with The Natural Dharma Fellowship Buddhist retreat center based at Wonderwell Refuge in Springfield, NH.  The six of us slowly paddled our kayaks through the mist on Grafton Pond. There was no one else to be seen on this drizzly Sunday morning, when normally 20-40 cars might be unloading their boats. It’s for good reason this place is popular. Actually a one-and-half-mile lake with a wilderness feel, complete with some 44 islands and great views of Cardigan Mountain to the north, this place has become overly popular with weekend warriors. We didn’t even have Grafton Pond on the schedule, knowing that private mediation and crowds weren’t conducive for contemplation in the wilds of New Hampshire. But there were no other cars to be seen on this day. Just us.

The weather forecast called for a short break in the rainy downpours between 10am and 2pm. Right on schedule, the rain stopped, and all was quiet, for the time being. We paddled  quietly to the southwest arm of the pond. The first exercise we gave our  participants was to drift in the big bay, slowly exploring the shoreline with presence of mind, quietly and slowly paddling from their kayaks.

All was idyllic, no rain, no people, just peace. Then,  like a tear in the fabric, gunshots from 3 miles away broke the silence. As we were each far apart from each other, we were not comparing notes about the noise until we reconvened one hour later. The shots rang regularly every three to five minutes apart.
We asked our participants, (not only on this day, but also at the end of the program), what their takeaways were from the experience. My co-facilitator, Tara Moon, shared that “the gun shots were” for her,  “like punctuation marks, reminders to stay present” . Unlike her, my first reaction was to swear at the offending firearms person, granted, under my breath. But as the hour drew on, I too accepted the state of the lake, complete with echoes of the gunshots heard on the water’s edge.

MSI Founder R. Richards on Mindfulness in the Mountains Program, Grafton Pond, NH
Image: Tara Moon

What has been most powerful though, has been the extension of this lesson learned, the transference of the experience, and how it has stuck with me in “my life away from the wilderness”, back in civilization. The gunshots are, to me,  like any disturbance that comes into my life, whether it’s an unkind comment that comes my way, or a bank that has overcharged me.  What I do between these disturbances is my business,  my responsibility. It is up to me to keep the calm, to remain in balance.

I also presented a metaphor of the lake and its waves during our kayaking program to illustrate, (from Eckhart Tolle’s example) that our lives are like not just the waves on the surface of the lake, but the whole lake. The waves might sometimes be windy and rough, but that is only part of the lake. Going down deep, where the water is undisturbed, or moved ever so slightly, is similar to staying focused on the goal of presence.
I love facilitating groups in the mountains and wilderness. I learn as much, or more than the students, and this case proved that again.

Contact us if you’d like to know more about the Mindfulness in the Mountains program, as well as our other programs in Peru, upcoming programs in France and New Zealand.

Mindfulness in the Mountains – First Adventure/Meditation Program a Success

20/10/2012

First Adventure/Meditation Program Deemed Success by Participants and Facilitators
This is the first in a series of posts called Mindfulness in the Mountains

Lama Willa Miller, of Wonderwell Refuge climbs at Rumney

Kayak, Hike, Rock Climb with Presence

Mindfulness in the Mountains, a 3-day adventure and meditation program, co-sponsored by Mountain Spirit Institute and the Natural Dharma Fellowship’s Wonderwell Refuge of Springfield NH, just wrapped up a weekend of rock climbing, kayaking and hiking on Sunday, Oct 14th.

Says Mountain Spirit Institute founder, Randall Richards, “A pair of instructors led each activity, one focused on outdoor skills, the other focused on teaching various meditation techniques. Both instructors, however,  were encouraged to offer their knowledge and background in both aspects of the program.  Consequently, there was quite a bit crossover between the co-leaders. Each instructor team shared exercises in both meditation and outdoor skills.

Eleven participants, both beginners and experienced hikers and kayakers came from as far away as Florida and New York to hike, rock climb and kayak in both the Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee region and Rumney, NH.

Richards said of the program, “I’ve been guiding and leading mountain programs for over 28 years, and this was, by far, one of the most fulfilling and meaningful experiences I’ve had.” He added, “To hike, climb or kayak, and focus, as a group, on the quiet of the place through which we traveled, was meaningful for both instructors and participants.”

Ilene Venizelos & Randy Richards walk the granite slabs above Lake Solitude, Mt. Sunapee, NH

Wonderwell Refuge’s spiritual leader, Lama Willa Miller and Richards, and former MSI director Ken Wylie came up with the program idea shortly after the Refuge’s open house which introduced the community to the center early last spring.  Miller states that “Buddhism actually has a strong wilderness tradition,”  adding,  “Monks, spiritual teachers and meditation practitioners have always gone to the mountaintops and into nature to get a sense of the sacred.” Lama Miller gave a video interview last spring on this blog where one can learn more about the philosophy of the program.

The participants signed up in advance for an activity but were also allowed to switch to a different sport on the second day of the weekend program, which allowed them a different focus. Rock climbing, for example, tended to bring up fear and trust. Hikers focused on meditation in motion and awareness of surroundings, while the kayakers focused on the metaphor of sky and water in meditative contemplation.

Once back at the refuge’s large meditation room in Springfield, the participants from each group came together and sat on big orange meditation cushions arranged in a circle on the large wooden floor. The old fireplace blazed, warming the room. They started with a short guided meditation, then both participants and instructors talked about their experiences of what happened for them during the day – the high and low points, and what heartfelt experiences if any, that they may have had.

Lama Miller rock climbed both days. She said of her experience, “In Buddhism, we have a meditation practice designed to help with facing one’s fear. Being forty feet up on the rock put’s it right in your face.  It’s quite visceral.

Said participant, Ilene Venizelos of Enfield, NH, “I feel this experience has helped me reconnect more with  myself, to the other participants, and to especially to nature.” Responded Richards, “Well, that’s good to hear!” adding, “What you’ve just said were some of our stated goals and outcomes for the program.”

You can learn more about Wonderwell at www.wonderwellrefuge.org and Mountain Spirit Institute at www.mtnspirit.org . Both are non-profit organizations which plan on offering more outdoor/meditation collaborative programs.

Stay tuned for more posts in this series: Mindfulness in the Mountains

Luis Benetiz’s Inspiring Story

31/08/2012

Because we all have mountains to climb.

NZ Alpine Club’s Nice Cover Shot

10/08/2012

New Zealand Alpine Club‘s Climber magazine, sports John Taficuk climbing the Temple Buttress at Temple Basin on the South Island at Arthur’s Pass.  What do you think?

Mixed (?) climbing on New Zealand’s South Island

Ed Webster’s “Everest the Hard Way”

04/08/2012

Ed, at a book signing

I happened by the Kittery Trading Post last month, and there was climber, Ed Webster doing a book signing.  I had never met him, but certainly knew of him. I was instantly drawn to his book-signing table, as he talked with a family of four who wanted to know more about getting started in the sport of rock climbing. He seemed engaged and affable. Ed authored a rock climbing guidebook to the the White Mountains area which I carried with me on my early climbs in New Hampshire. It sits on my bookshelf, beat up from use. He’s also got quite a reputation as a climber.

Ed was recently in the Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee region presenting his slide show, Everest the Hard Way.  His 1988 Everest Kangshung Face new route, (more…)

Mindfulness in The Mountains

30/07/2012

Mountain Spirit Institute is collaborating with  The Natural Dharma Fellowship of Cambridge Mass, and their retreat center in Springfield, New Hampshire (Wonderwell Refuge) to offer Mindfulness in the Mountains, Oct 12th-14th in the Dartmouth Lake Sunapee Region.

Mountains as Mediation – Going Back to Our Roots

Led by a unique team of experienced world-class outdoor adventurers, guides, instructors, and experienced meditators, this weekend will provide room for exploring the layers of self-knowledge possible through adventuring in our natural environment. During the weekend, lovers of nature and those interested in hiking, rock climbing and kayaking will come together to adventure without and within.

To get an idea what see the interview of Lama Willa Miller by R. Richards below:

Read more on the program at our  MSI and Wonderwell’s Webpages, and stay tuned for more details posted on this blog.

Outward Bound Plans to Reopen Mazama, WA Basecamp

13/07/2012

Three Fools Peak, Paysaytan Wilderness

An Outward Bound base of operations in Washington State will be reopened according to the Northwest Outward Bound School Board of Directors. I’m glad to hear this good news, as I spent many a day there when working for OB, and like many instructors, still consider it my other home.  This just in..

“On Monday, several members of the Washington Advisory Council (Steve Smith, Josh Cole, Dave Betts, Wyatt Southworth-Thomas, Julie Weis) drove to Portland to present a few options for the potential reopening of the Mazama basecamp. The following has been released from the board of directors of the Northwest Outward Bound School:

“The Northwest Outward Bound School Board of Directors has enthusiastically committed to reopening the Washington Program and the Mazama Basecamp for the 2013 season. How robust this programming will be has not yet been determined, but

OB student rappels in the North Cascade Wilderness

Northwest Outward Bound School Board, staff, and volunteers look forward to offering powerful programs in a spectacular setting. Reviving the program has taken the effort, commitment, and dedication of dozens of people on the Washington Advisory Council and the Friends of Mazama group, and moving from this decision to program implementation will take the support of many more people. For this to come to fruition, we need to raise a significant amount of funding, and we accept gifts through our website (www.nwobs.org) or at 31520 E. Woodard Street, Troutdale, OR, 97060. Your contribution toward this effort will make it a reality. We wish to thank all of those who have given time, energy, and funds to get us to this place and to all of those who will offer support in the coming months.”

– NWOBS Board of Directors

Mountain Spirit Inst. Offers Programs/Events

12/07/2012

Mountain Spirit Institute Offers Upcoming Programs and Special Events

Mountain Spirit Institute of the Dartmouth Lake Sunapee Region and Queenstown New Zealand area, is offering programs this summer and fall in New Hampshire, based on its mission to “help people reconnect with the environment, each other and a deeper connection to one’s self”.

The first program, on July 22nd ,  is an Adventure Educator’s Sharing Symposium open to teachers, students and outdoor educators who would like to share, learn and apply best practices of group processing and facilitation, especially with a holistic approach. There is no charge, as MSI is offering this as a public service.

Mountain Spirit will also be offering a Reconnection with Nature Hike on July 24th where there will be hiking to a local mountaintop, and participants will have a chance to relax with a short meditation and powerful nature reading. Again, there is no charge, as MSI is offering this as a public service.

On July 28th there will be a one-day Solo retreat starting at eight in the morning with a basic orientation and safety talk. Participants will then be shown their own “solo spot” where they will spend the day with minimal gear and distractions. There is a nominal program fee for this event.  There will also be an Overnight Solo on August 24th and 25th  where participants spend the night under a tarp in a beautiful local setting.  The goal for Solo’s are to reconnect, unplug, contemplate and be present in nature with few distractions with the safety net of experienced facilitators and guides. Solos will also be offered as an on-demand basis.

Lama Miller

Mountain Spirit Institute is collaborating with Lama Willa Miller of the Wonderwell Refuge, in Springfield NH on an outdoor adventure program called Mindfulness in the Mountains. The Natural Dharma Fellowship has a retreat center, where the program will be based for the weekend of Oct 12-14th.

MSI will offer again its MSI Film Series, one of which will be Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. This remarkable film follows two men, one an Australian and other an American truck driver, on their amazing path to recovering their health through juicing and healthy lifestyle choices . There will be some testimonials and discussion after the film. They do what their website calls a “reboot of your body”.

Rock Climbing will be offered to parent/children pairs, as well as families up to four, on the local crags in the region by appointment.

Mountain Spirit Institute is an insured non-profit educational organization started in 1998. Their first program was a cultural immersion trip to Peru. All of the summer and fall programs will be facilitated and managed by internationally recognized guides and facilitators. For more information on any of these programs or on Mountain Spirit Institute,  visit their website at www.mtnspirit.org or call 603-763-2668

Back Writing Again..& Upcoming Programs and Special Events

06/07/2012

Holistic Outdoor Connections
Since 1998

Although I’ve had a backlog of ideas and material for MSI’s blog, and have even shot some footage for video posts (stay tuned), our family has been busy with a major move of late. Nevertheless, it’s time to start writing again.  Plus, we have some upcoming programs that may be of interest!:

  • Adventure Educator’s Symposium July 22: Share,learn and apply best practices of processing & facilitation. Open to students, teachers and outdoor educators. No charge.
  • Reconnecting with Nature Hike July 24: Hike to a mountain-top, relax with a short meditation and a powerful reading.
  • Getting Outside! Nature Deficit Disorder July 25, 7pm: How do you view nature? Do you find it hard to get nature time? Technology got ya?
  • Solo July 28: 1 day retreat in a beautiful setting to unplug.
  • Solo Overnight Aug 25/6: Saturday morning head out to a private spot, supervised retreat, minimal gear.
  • Mindfulness in the Mountains Oct 13/14: Co-sponsored with Natural Dharma Fellowship, come explore the adventure within through Rock Climbing / Hike / Kayak.
  • Rock Climbing as Metaphor for Life: By appt. For families up to four.

Stay tuned for more info or to contact us,  and please visit us at mtnspirit.org
Cheers,

R. Richards

Vanishing Rivers of Ice – Dave Breashears

06/04/2012

Mountaineer and Filmmaker Dave Breashers presents Rivers of Ice, Vanishing Glaciers of the Greater Himalaya

Before and After Shots..Not Good.

The Greater Himalaya has the largest concentration of glaciers outside the polar ice sheets, providing vital fresh water for almost every major system  of Asia. Over the past five years, Breashears and the team of his nonprofit organization, GlacierWorks, has conducted ten photographic expeditions to the region, to study and document the effects of climate change on this delicate landscape.

Dave Breashears

Breashears presents at the Boston Museum of Science on April 12, but alas, tickets are sold out. Nevertheless we thought it was worth the post here. You might try to try the climber’s move and squeeze in somewhere.

Retracing the steps of pioneering alpine photographers and explorers George Mallory, Vittorio Sella and others, Breashears and the team have captured  high-definition photographs that  match those of the earliest expeditions. By comparing this contemporary imagery with the historic photographs, Breashears and his team are discovering staggering changes to the region—changes with potentially devastating consequences.

There is  debate in the scientific community about the rate and extent to which Himalayan glaciers are shrinking.  Nevertheless, scientists agree that there is a trend of melting beyond what is expected to occur naturally. Although future impacts of glacial melt cannot be known, any disruption to the water supply will inevitably present challenges to the millions of people living  downstream.
Breashears plans on sharing his work in a blend of first-person story telling and imagery.
More info: Mount Washington Observatory

Thursday, April 12, from 6:30 to 9:30 pm
Museum of Science, Boston