Archive for the ‘MSI News’ Category

Mindfulness in the Mountains Program Runs a Second Year

29/08/2013

Buddhist Refuge and Mountain Spirit Institute Collaborate again on Mindfulness Program
By R. Richards, Mountain Spirit Founder

Lama Willa Miller Collaborates with Mountain Spirit on Mindfulness in Mtns Program

Lama Willa Miller Collaborates with Mountain Spirit on Mindfulness in Mtns Program

Mindfulness in the Mountains, a 3-day adventure and meditation program, will be co-sponsored again for a second year in a row by Mountain Spirit Institute and the Natural Dharma Fellowship’s Wonderwell Refuge of Springfield NH, with a four day program of rock climbing, kayaking and hiking starting on Thursday, September 12th and lasting through the weekend.

Says Mountain Spirit Institute founder, Randall Richards, “A pair of instructors will lead each activity, one focusing on outdoor skills, the other on teaching various meditation techniques. Both instructors however,  will offer their knowledge and background in both meditation and outdoor skills.  There will be quite a bit crossover between the co-leaders. Each instructor team shares exercises in both meditation and outdoor skills.

Kayaks on last year's program

Kayaks on last year’s program

They expect participants, to come for hiking, rock climbing and kayaking from different parts of the eastern U.S. as well as farther afield. The program will be held in the Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee region.

Richards says of last year’s 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.” (more…)

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.

Nordic Nirvana Interview w/ Lama Miller, Part 2

01/01/2013
"Letting the mountains meditate you"

“Letting the mountains meditate you”

Mountain Spirit Institute‘s director, R. Richards, continues his interview with Lama Willa Miller of the Wonderwell Mountain Refuge about their collaboration on the upcoming Nordic Nirvana Cross-Country Ski weekend retreat. This is the two organization’s second collaborative offering of mindfulness and outdoor pursuits. In Oct. 2012, MSI and Wonderwell offered Mindfulness in the Mountains.
This program promises to deliver a similar flavor of quietude but this time, with a balance of motion over snow on ski.

Nordic Nirvana Interview w/ Lama Miller, Part 1

01/01/2013
XC Skiing and Meditation

XC Skiing and Meditation

Mountain Spirit Institute is excited to once again partner with  Wonderwell Mountain Refuge and Natural Dharma Fellowship to offer a weekend of nordic skiing and meditation in the beautiful mountains and woods the Dartmouth Lake Sunapee region of New Hampshire. Below is part 1 of yesterday’s interview with Lama Willa Miller, the spiritual head of the Wonderwell and Natural Dharma Fellowship of Cambridge MA. Part II is here.

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

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.

What Gives You Hope?

26/07/2012

Grafton Pond, NH

“The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends, ‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world. 
Alfred Lord Tennyson

I started Mountain Spirit Institute in 1998 when we led our first trip to Peru, with the basic mission “to facilitate a deeper connection to the natural environment, each other and ourselves.”  Since then it has become ever more apparent how we need “nature time” more than ever. It’s good to see people out on the trail, and in kayaks these days, but National Park use is down in the U.S, and technology competes for the breath of fresh air. We just offered a presentation last night in a small town in New Hampshire called “Get Outside While You Still Can.” The piece below echoes a lot of what we covered in our presentation, and why we started MSI.

 By Eric Utne,
Founder, The Utne Reader

As I’ve said in this column before, I’m afraid it may be too late to avoid the devastating effects of global climate change. (more…)

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