Archive for the ‘Focus on MSI People’ Category

Write Something, Anything

24/02/2013

By R. Richards, Founder
Mountain Spirit Institute
Dateline: Auckland, New Zealand

Let them eat cake

Let them eat cake

I don’t mean write just anything of course, but get writing. For some of our regular readers, you may have noticed I haven’t been around much these past months. It’s been quite a year, what with selling the family home (a good thing), sifting through and giving away a lot of stuff, running MSI programs, and lastly, moving back here to New Zealand.

We arrived yesterday, complete with our 19-month old toddler, on my birthday. (Thanks for all the good birthday wishes by the way from folks on Facebook.) We had planned on being here months ago, but in toddler-ville, everything seemed to take longer. Not that I’m complaining, because we saw people, go for a ski or a skate, and plan the move properly.

Now that we’re here, it’s time to, among other things, put on the writing hat back on, and keep writing –  something, anything.

I’ve got a lot on my mind, and of course, I want to post an update and synopsis of our latest collaborative program with Lama Willa Miller and Wonderwell Mountain Refuge in the Dartmouth Lake Sunapee Region of New Hampshire called Nordic Nirvana.  Stay tuned with some other observations and things that have come across my path, including Searching for Sugarman, (It looks like we might actually see Rodriguez in concert here in Auckland in a few weeks), and wherethehellismatt.com plus some of the random observations and news I have covered over the years.

We’re pretty tired, and we’re still geared to NH time, which makes it 4:30AM (and I’m still not in bed), but I thought I’d write something, anything.

XC Ski Instructors Talk About Nordic Nirvana

31/01/2013
Deborah Sellars

Deborah Sellars

Deb Sellars and Molly Morgan, part of the ski instructor team (with Randy Richards) for the upcoming Nordic Nirvana program, talk about their background and the concept of blending XC Skiing and the Buddhist practice of mindfulness and presence while skiing in nature.

Molly Morgan

Molly Morgan

Mountain Spirit Institute is collaborating with Wonderwell Mountain Refuge in Springfield, NH to offer a special weekend, based at the refuge, of XC skiing (possibly snowshoeing depending upon conditions) on Feb. 8,9,10th. For more info see  Mountain Spirit Institute’s and Wonderwell Mountain Refuge’s webpages on the program.

Justifying My Existence

02/11/2012

A case for the hard working travelers & educators

Finally Realizing I Actually Did Make the Best Life Decisions
By R. Richards, Founder
Mountain Spirit Institute
Andrew McCarthy in his book  “The Longest Way Home – One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down “  writes, “Whenever I would tell people that I was going off on some trip or another, I was met with remarks like, “Oh, tough life,” or, “That’s rough.” Even good friends reacted with outright hostile envy-“Must be nice,” they often said. I used to try to explain and justify my travels.  It was pointless.  Travel, especially by people who rarely do it, is often dismissed as a luxury and an indulgence, not a practical or useful way to spend one’s time.
“People complain, “I wish I could afford to go away.” Even when I did the math and showed that I often spent less money while on the road than staying home, they looked at me with skepticism.  The reasons for not traveling are as varied and complex as the justification for any behavior.  Perhaps people feel this way about travel because of how it’s so often perceived and presented.
“They anticipate and expect escape, from jobs and worries, from routines and families, but mostly, I think, from themselves-the sunny beach with life’s burdens left behind.  For me, travel has rarely been about escape; it’s often not even about a particular destination. The motivation is to go, to meet life, and myself, head-on along the road. There’s something in the act of setting out that renews me, that fills me with a feeling of possibility. On the road, I’m forced to rely on instinct and intuition, on the kindness of strangers, in ways that illuminate who I am, ways that shed light on my motivations, my fears. “

The author as a child on Lake Sunapee

My wife, who had been reading McCarthy’s book this week, showed the above passage to me the other day.  Although I’ve done more than my fair share of “inner work”, in one instant, after hearing her read these words, I realized, I too have been carrying a chip on my shoulder about supposedly not working hard enough, about being a mountain guide and facilitator and director of a non-profit organziation. I’ve tried to defend what I do to  family, friends and the fellow community members in my home town. It has not been the work of my imagination – that some have thought I “was on permanent vacation”.

After graduation from University of Utah, I was on a fast track to represent an Austrian ski boot company in the U.S. by taking a Master Boot-maker program in Austria. However, the combination of two main life events,  meeting Erga and Luciano Cappella, (see my earlier post: Reconnecting with a Mentor)  and one day, simply realizing I was on the wrong side of the window in that little mountain workshop where I was learning how to make ski boots, made me have a paradigm shift. I needed to be “out there in the mountains”, in the Alps. Something in me snapped, and I realized at that moment, I was the closest I would ever get to corporate life, (aside from later conducting Outward Bound Professional corporate team-building workshops). I took a left-hand turn out of the corporate ski business, and never looked back.  With that decision, came a shift in perception, and future decisions  led me to international mountain guiding, a long stint with Outward Bound as a lead instructor and staff trainer, and lastly, founder of Mountain Spirit Institute.

Richards rappelling in his twenties, Newbury, NH

I’ve worked hard, as do most people in the outdoor education field. Anyone who has started a  non-profit organization from the ground up also knows program building and organizational management on a small scale takes a lot of energy, more so than punching a timeclock.  It has sometimes felt like pushing a boulder uphill.  That’s not even taking into account the fun, but hard and endless hours of making sure the participants get what they need on any given program.  I’m committed to what I do, and feel I’m  good at it. It has been my passion since I started teaching in the outdoors at age thirteen, and I feel it’s my life’s purpose.

But from the outside,  it looks like I’ve been galavanting around since my twenties. “When are you going to get a real job” is what if not said, is implied sometimes. Indeed, even my parents occasionally expressed concerns about my not “biting the bullet” , a nice term. Then, later in her life, my mom was just happy knowing that I was doing what filled me up.

With Dr. Theo Paredes, Peru

I didn’t know this article needed to be written until a few nights ago, but now realize it has been long overdue.  I quoted Eckhart Tolle in an earlier post
“Most people are only peripherally aware of the world that surrounds them,  Especially if their surroundings are familiar. The voice in the head absorbs a greater part of their attention. Some people feel more alive when they travel and visit unfamiliar places or foreign countries because at those times sense perception, experiencing takes up more of their consciousness than thinking. They become more present.”

I never looked back – Guiding in Alaska

It’s almost a cliché, but I think this is what other climbers, outdoor leaders and guides are up against when they encounter the world of the conventional. It’s almost like two worlds intersecting. Many articles and books have been written about this. Of course we’re all connected on one level. On another, there very different lives happening in my small hometown.  Said Oliver Wendall Holmes  “A mind that is stretched to a new idea never returns to its original dimensions.”

Fortunately my mind has been stretched. Now it is up to me, with this new perspective, (thanks to McCarthy), to compassionately nod to those who don’t understand my lifestyle and career choice, and to move on.
For more information on R. Richards’ career choices you can read his short bio at Mountain Spirit Institute’s About Page.
Re-edited on 11/3/12 16:46EST (My motto, post first, edit later)

Some responses from my personal Facebook Page, also see the comment posted below by Jay for additional insight.

  • Peter Canaday Hard to explain unless you come across others of the same mind, and then, no explanation is necessary….
  • Wendy Gilker Randy, I understand living a life different from the norm. Generally, people do question it. How many times have people asked me – “When do you get a life Wendy”. As Joseph Campbell said ” the Journey begins with a” call to adventure in which the He…See More
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  • Wendy Gilker Helen Keller – “Many people admire what I did with my life because I seemed to be at such a disadvantage. But, they’re mistaken. If anything , I was greatly blessed. The danger in my “zone unknown” was great, but so was the treasure since eternal pr…See More
  • Randy Richards Good comments Wendy, I like the quotes.
  • Irene Powell Thank you for sharing….I will be allowing this words to percolate inside and see where they take me in my inner voyage of discovery.
  • Kevin Sleeper Randy, I have to say that it is/was probably jealousy which produces those comments. Be comfortable that it is our loss and your gain. Being outside was always a passion of mine, mostly expressed through scouting. Check out my posting of the Sailors take warning sky last Sunday at 6:15 or so over Lake Sunapee. I am sure you will recognize the place?
  • Randy Richards Thanks Jay Leavitt for the comment and poem (posted on our blog). You bring up some good points I failed to include. Also, I’ve done some re-edits of the blog post – My motto: Post first, edit later.
  • Randy Richards Hey Kevin Thanks for that..Yeah I remember that about you.
  • Dale Morrow I agree with Kevin, Randy. Feel a little sympathy for us who look at you, and feel the need to needle you, because we covet your life. But don’t take it all to heart. They mean no harm. People have to learn to accept the choices they’ve made.
  • Kevin Sleeper Randy, I learned a long time ago if U R going to swim upstream U R going to need a thick skin.

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

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

Ken Wylie Named to MSI Board

24/03/2012

Mountain Spirit Institute names Ken Wylie to Board of Directors

Ken Wylie

Ken Wylie, a veteran certified mountain guide from Cochrane Alberta, Canada with years as an experiential educator and program manager at Canadian universities as well as Outward Bound Canada and the Outward Bound USA, has recently been named to the board of directors at Mountain Spirit Institute based in the U.S. and New Zealand.  In addition to helping guide the U.S. organization, Wylie has plans to launch a  Mountain Spirit Institute Canada where he will create mountain programs based on the mission statement. Mr. Wylie and founder Randall Richards along with fellow board members are in discussions about also collaborating on mountain programs in the U.S,  New Zealand and possibly the Alps.

Says Wylie, “I am drawn to Mountain Spirit Institute because of the organization’s vision. MSI has the vision for the 21st century in my estimation, and is what I have been searching for in my career.” Adds Wylie, “The mountains are an experience that can change people’s lives, but are more often than not just another consumable, another peak to check off the list. What people need now more than ever,  is to connect and MSI helps them do that.” (more…)

Spring Skiing in New Zealand’s Backcountry

16/10/2011

The View of Kingston/Lake Wakatipu From Above

“Now I see the secret of making the best person: it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.” Walt Whitman

The other day, as the spring corn was coming onto the scene, I finally decided to investigate the moderate ridgetops of our valley here in the Wakatipu Basin in Kingston, New Zealand. The skiing wasn’t the steepest, and the “peaks” aren’t the sharpest in the Southern Alps, but the snow was damn perfect. After all, the first ski hut in New Zealand was just down the road on the Nevis Road. There must have been a reason for that being the first NZ ski field.

What I found after a two hour hike to snowline, were broad snowfields of cornsnow with some minor peaks along the ridge. Evidently this is where a snowmobile/heli-ski operation brought people up last season. I could see them lifting off, just across the road, and thought, “If they’re headed up there, must be something to it.” We live in Kingston, a sleepy little town, home of spectacular scenery, rock climbing, dramatic walks, a long pebble beach at the south end of the second largest lake in New Zealand, and home to an eclectic community that hasn’t been discovered by Queenstown yet. Oh I almost forgot to I mention the Kingston Flyer steam train,  which is now up and running, after a number of years in receivership. Look closely at the image on right, the clouds of smoke are from the steam train’s maiden test run, and from the fires it started along side the tracks.

A long, fun day. Rising at 4:40 I  hit the DOC trailhead by 5:30, and got back to the car around 18:30 I was a little tired, but jazzed. Fortunately there were freezing temperature up high, so by 10am, there was perfect corn on the northern aspects.  I took some pix and video, so decided just to blend them into a movie for the day…Enjoy.