Archive for the ‘Power of Place’ Category

Buddhism & Mindfulness in the Mountains: Part III

10/04/2012

By: R. Richards
We continue our interview with Lama Miller of Wonderwell Refuge in Springfield, NH, USA
See Part I  or Part II

Buddhism & Mindfulness in the Mountains: Part II

03/04/2012

A walk in the woods at Wonderwell Refuge

By R. Richards,
Lama* Willa Miller, head of a Tibetan sect of Buddhism, based in Cambridge Mass, continues the interview on the new Wonderwell Refuge, the importance of being in nature, as well as her own early influences and experiences being in the wilderness with her father in Idaho.  We also talked about Richard Louv’s concept of Nature Deficit Disorder, a term the author coined in his book, The Last Child in the Woods.
The early teachings of Buddhism emphasized the refuge of wilderness, the mountain top, the cave. Lama Miller sees this as a return to the traditional ways of Buddhism by encouraging her visitors to the refuge, to get out on mindfulness walks in nature.  See Part I here.
*(Lama: A title given in Tibetan Buddhism to a venerated spiritual master, a monk/priest of high rank)
Mountain Spirit Institute is planning a collaborative effort with The Wonderwell Refuge to offer a Mindfulness in the Mountains retreat in the fall of 2012.

The meditation hall at Wonderwell Refuge, Springfield, New Hampshire

Buddhism & Mindfulness in the Mountains

01/04/2012

Lama Willa Miller, the spiritual leader of a Natural Dharma Fellowship branch in Massachusetts, talks about a new refuge center, and the importance of mindfulness in the mountains. Part 1

Lama Willa Miller

By R. Richards
Mountain Spirit Institute
The Dartmouth Lake Sunapee region of New Hampshire, USA has the good fortune of seeing a new Tibetan Buddhist Refuge open in the tiny town of Springfield. After a recent open house, we learned about what Lama Willa Miller, the leader of the  Cambridge Mass based branch of The Natural Dharma Fellowship, has in mind for the new retreat center called Wonderwell, as well as the link between Buddhism and the mountains. Learn more, check out this first in series of interviews we conducted on location. See Part II

Lost Cities of the Amazon

30/03/2012

Downtown in The Lost Cities of the Amazon
by Andean Air Mail & PERUVIAN TIMES ·
By Nicholas Asheshov

A "Lost" people?

Some weeks ago two events, one of them startling, came together to pin-point the mysterious new conundrum of the Amazon.  The first was the appearance on a busy riverbank in the Madre de Dios of a few dozen members of a previously-isolated group of Indians.  They killed someone who had been trying to help them. The naked Indians, seen on TV screens around the world, were described by anthropologists as descendants of an unbroken line of hunting and gathering savages, living fossils of our neolithic past.

Area of Coverage

This is, according to new Amazon thinking, incorrect. These Indians are the sad, socially degenerated remnants of nations and tribes that were productive, sophisticated and stable  just a few centuries ago.The other event was an article in The New York Times that reported on the discovery in Acre, only a few hours travel from the Madre de Dios Indians, of extensive, deep straight, or sometimes circular, trenches, ridges and mounds dating back to pre-Columbian times, indicating a large, well-developed society. This was just the latest evidence that the Amazon, or at least parts of it, was heavily populated by well-organized societies in much the same way as the high Andes were remodelled by the Tiahuanuco, the Chavin, the Chachapoyas, the Huari, and the Incas.

Over the past couple of decades the pre-history of the Americas has been revolutionized, setting off poison-tipped academic and ecological vendettas. First of all, the Americas were populated much earlier, at least 33-35,000 years ago, double the time previously calculated.  That is back to Neanderthal epochs.

An Excellent Read

Second, there were many more people here when Columbus arrived than was earlier thought.  And, most important, the societies and nations of the Americas were much more sophisticated and structured than was previously understood.  They were agriculturalists, not the war-whoopers of the movies.  Their mode of life and agriculture had massive, long-term effects on the original pre-human forests.   Fire was a basic control mechanism.

Today the evidence of genetics, linguistics and archaeology is clear that the Amazon was not just an impenetrable green hell populated by primitive hunters and fishermen eking out an unchanging, culturally marginal existence. The same applies to North America.  Here most of the descriptions of primitive Indians come from 18th and 19th century travelers who were seeing only the sorry leftovers of great nations that had been obliterated by smallpox, viral hepatitis, influenza and other European and African diseases.  The Conquest set off the Dark Ages in the Americas. read the rest of this story

Learning to See

23/01/2012

By: R. Richards

The wonder of a palm frond in the morning sun, nz.

I’ve often been thinking how having a child is like teaching an 18-yr Outward Bound course, for the parents. The bus arrives when the baby is born and it may leave when the teen turns 18, but maybe not.  Of course, no one wants to hear the worn our phrase, “you learn through your children” but I’m reminded of the Kogi tribe (see the BBC film Elder Brother’s Warning) in the Colombian Sierra Nevada mountains who hide their shamans-in-training in a darkened hut, never seeing the light of day until their 18th birthday. Then, after years of preparation, after telling them what the world looks like, they see their world for themselves, for the first time with their own eyes. As the wonder of a baby, with new eyes, but with training, so they can see their world more clearly to do their shamanic work.

Seeing our baby boy look with glee at the morning sunrise, and the light shining through some palm leaves this morning is an eye opener. I felt “more aware” after I survived being tossed around in a van roll-over in 1988. “Everything looked new and pristine”, as Eckhart Tolle put it after his awakening experience.  I felt like lucky to still be on the planet. That default feeling subsided after a few weeks, and now I have to work at being present by doing what I call “remembering my spiritual practice”. For me it’s meditating and listening to Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now.  Reminders can take almost any form as long as it helps

An Eye Catcher - Are you watching though?

bring one back to their center.  In recent talks with newly elected Mountain Spirit Institute board member and mountain guide/instructor Ken Wyle, he’s been relating how writing his book on being buried in an avalanche which killed seven people, is a catharsis. Tolle says that people who are more conscious in their lives have usually had some tragic loss in their life that shook them out of the dream state we call normal life.

Our baby boy, laughing as he looks out the window of our van whizzing down main street in Kingston New Zealand,  is a reminder to me – “What am I missing? I want to see like he sees!”  The good news, it’s wholly possible. I’ve been seeing, more than dreaming during the last ten years.  And it’s obivous when I’m not present. I might go a whole morning or day and realize I’ve not been present until something catches my eye, like a detail of a stem in a vase, or the bustle in supermarket, or of course, a sunset.

Learning to see and live in the moment sure beats the alternative, and I’m not going back. When you beat your head against a wall long enough, you finally decide you’ve had enough of that, and make the choice to stay in peace, no matter what happens. A side benefit of being at peace is your mind isn’t filled with crap, so you are free to see such things as the morning light shining through some palm fronds.

Images: R. Richards, taken this morning

A Restored Mountain Hut Getaway with Good Energy

11/01/2012

A New Zealand Farmer Does Good by Following His Passion

Tom O'Brien of High Country Walks

Tom O’Brien, owner of Blackmore Farm and founder of High Country Walks has followed his passion by offering up a little hut on the back side of his 5000 acre farm. Called the Chinaman’s Hut, it was restored some years ago, by local volunteers, Tom and his father. The hut is situated on the rolling mountains of the Slate Range,  just south of the Remarkables Mountains, on the border of Otago and Southland. Tom took the afternoon to show me his farm, the backcountry and the Chinaman’s Hut. below is a short piece on the hut, and a chat with Tom about his philosophy and passion of sharing this part of the world with others.We’re in hopes, here at Mountain Spirit Institute of collaborating with Tom by running some programs on the Slate Range and Blackmore Farm. We chatted about providing Solo’s and other types of programs.
Thanks for the time you took to show me around Tom!
Note: I’ve met one of the volunteers who helped restore the Chinaman’s Hut, a neighbor of ours here in Kingston named Dusty, who I’ll see if I can get on tape in the next few days. He has an interesting story to tell of not only this restoration project by many others.

11/11 in New Zealand

11/11/2011

We had 11/11 a bit earlier than most of the planet (if you’re going by clock-time). We decided to kick ours off with a picnic, a short sage ceremony, and finished it off with an evening rainbow. Welcome – The Age of Aquarius.

11 min after 11AM on 11/11

The Author, another tailgate picnic in Roberts Canyon, NZ

Evening Rainbow with Mtn Shadow Cutting In

Double Rainbow on 11/11 New Zealand

 

Along the Road to Milford Sound, NZ

01/11/2011

Nothing to see here, keep moving..

Milford Sound is renowned for its world class beauty, its fjords, hikes, and waterfalls, wildlife and dramatic alpine terrain. It’s something to put on your “must do” list, despite its popularity with so many that come to New Zealand. However, the drive through (and under) the mountains,  on NZ Highway 97 and its  the 1270 meter Homer Tunnel also got my attention. I’m looking forward to getting out into the Darran Mountains soon, where there’s granite and lots alpine adventure to be had.

A sense of perspective and vertical relief from our sunroof

A sense of perspective and vertical relief from our sunroof

We took a day off, and drove over to Milford last month, and thought we’d share a few images.

Heading back to Kingston, we caught a glimpse of the wind farm, which is somewhat controversial in this area, and stopped to take an image of the huge blades above the fields of sheep.

Yep, we did get out of the car, these are just some images taken along the road. More on the backcountry and Milford Sound in another post.

Windmills in New Zealand

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.

Learning to Snowboard Indoors and then.. Spreading the Wings

27/09/2011

By R. Richards

Marco Wells, Coronet Peak, NZ - Image: R. Richards

Last Friday, I had one of the strangest, (but good) experiences of my outdoor career –  I took a 14-year old friend snowboarding for the first time in the mountains. However, it wasn’t his first time snowboarding . He had learned at one of forty indoor ski facilities in the world, Snow Planet in Auckland, New Zealand. He learned to board over of a number of years, but had never been outside on natural snow on a mountain.  At Snow Planet they have a Poma style tow-lift. He had been on a chairlift once with his family, but that was in the summer without a snowboard on his feet. So combining his indoor boarding skills and one-time on a chair lift ride, gave him a collection of skills to head outside.  Taking him up Coronet Peak’s chair for the first run, was like watching someone who was putting all the pieces together. He kept saying, “Look at all this snow!” and, “We’re high up on this chair”. His skills were solid and it was quite an amazing experience to see someone come out of their shell or out of their building. The next days were filled with a trip in the backcountry, and an afternoon at the Remarkables Ski Area, where he was exposed to all sorts of terrain and conditions and handled them admirably.  It reminded some obscure fact of how many indoor rock climbers never climb on real rock, or never end up placing a piece of rock gear for protection on a climb, (what they quaintly call “trad”, I call climbing)

Anyway, congrats to Marco for coming out of the indoors ski gym and joining me in the mountains. Come out again soon! We’ll be waiting.