Posts Tagged ‘Dexter Richards’

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.

Nature’s Seven Doctors in New Zeland

29/03/2011

A book for the ages

Hanging out at the Telemark Inn and Llama Farm (Newry, Maine)  years ago, when I was a ranch hand, and pack guide, I came across a little book on Steve Crone’s bookshelf called “Nature’s Seven Doctors” by Kirschner and White. This little volume espoused the basics of how simple living and paying attention the basics keeps one healthy.

After the Christchurch Earthquake and all, I guess the readjustment and stress of an unplanned move had me melancholy the last few days. I went with the flow, in line with Tolle, was in accepting and allowing my state to be, I  just didn’t feel at the top of my game. Even though we’ve found ourselves in a beautiful place, 7 hours south of the quake zone, it’s still been an adjustment of sorts.

Today I got it together and climbed to the top of the cliff outside our new rental home, sat for a short meditatino, and ran back down the trail, and on my way back to the house,  jumped in Lake Wikatipu on lake’s southern beach. The run and dip did me good, and I’ve been reminded all day of Kirschner and White’s book.   I’ve been feeling like new person all day.

The Seven Doctors are: (I usually can do this from memory, let’s see..) Fresh air, fresh water, fresh food, rest, mental/spiritual development, adequate exercise and adequate sleep.  Nothing to remember really, it’s common sense.

A view of Kingston, NZ from the top of Shirttail Cliffs

Your Food Supply #28

23/01/2011

On the Road in New Zealand
Is Monsanto in the Neighborhood?

Pioneer Seed Sign: Belgium 2009

We just arrived on the South Island, having driven through from NZ’s biggest city, Auckland, down Route 1. We saw some disturbing looking corn fields with little red signs on the side, saying Pioneer. It eerily reminded us of scenes in the U.S.’s midwest fields, but not on the grand scale of course.  Please see our earlier posts on how corn has crowded out the countryside in America.

How do you tell strange corn? It grows closer together than normal corn. It looks uncomfortably close together. And there’s lots of it, and of course the telltail signs at the edge of the field.

With a quick check on Wikipedia we discovered a connection with Dupont Chemical. Ykes. The mulit-national corp is everywhere. Of course, you knew that already. The saving grace, we think Kiwis have a bit more sense, and something to go on, seeing the disaster that has befallen the U.S. food supply with GMO, high fructose corn syrup, ad infinitum.

When is Enough, Enough?

13/02/2010

Keeping Land Developers in Their Box
By D.R. Richards,
I remember that particular afternoon, when a friend and I talked about trying to do something to help save Mount Sunapee from the dread of slope-side condo development. Sullivan county, New Hampshire had no history* of activism, none, zero, zip. Being a native, of a conventional, conservative county, I had to really watch my thoughts of not wanting to make waves in my home town.  I didn’t want to stand out. Besides, people I talked to said there was “nothing that could be done”, “it was already a done deal”, or they were “going to develop the mountain and what could anyone do anyway”.  That particular afternoon, the friend and I decided to call a few people, and set up a meeting at the Abbott Library in Sunapee to see what could be done. That first meeting eventually led to the formation of Friends of Mount Sunapee.  (*Current FOMS Vice President Linda Dennis was a founding member of a previous Mt. Sunapee land protection group, but  at the time we convened, it was not active).

Mt. Sunapee has Friends

Never underestimate what the efforts of a few committed people can do in the face of deep pockets and driven land developers.  Thanks to many, (too many to mention here) the word spread about the threat to our State Park, and eventually it spread to the candidate for New Hampshire governor,  John Lynch.  Lynch has been the most popular Governor New Hampshire has seen, and because of his courageous stance to defend the state lands of Mount Sunapee, the developers decided to sue him, and the state of NH, because their imaginary back-door deal wasn’t honored.  Now I read the owners  are threatening to sue again. This time they’re stomping their feet at  the U.S. Forest Service in Colorado,  for again, not getting their desires met to expand their ski area. (For more info click here)

Overdevelopment is not pretty, Okemo, VT

It makes  one wonder how some can be so incredibly out of touch with reality, out of touch with the wishes of the locals and the natural environment.  I just watched the movie Avatar, (I still have a headache from the Imax 3-D version three days later) and the Muellers’  insatiable appetite for land and profit remind me of the miners in Avatar and their lust for the precious “unobtainium” mineral at all costs.
My dad was a developer. He built one of the first “funnel developments” on Lake Sunapee called Fisher’s Bay. (more…)

Peru’09: Willoc Weaving

04/08/2009

By Randall Richards

Kate J. at Willoc circa 1980's

Kate J. at Willoc circa 1980's

The first time I visited the small mountain village of Willoc, near Ollantaytambo was about 12 years ago.  Coincidently, my cousin Kate Jones spent a semester from the Lakeside School in Ollantaytambo and spent some time with a family in Willoc about twenty or thirty years before I showed up. This was before I knew where Peru was. She sent  a photo of her with her host family in Willoc, which I had on my desk for a number of years.  Then when I finally went Willoc, and recognized the local dress, I wondered if Willoc might be the  place that Katy ended up. I called her from Peru to solve the issue, and yes it was. Another year in Willoc, I tracked down her family. I’m headed there again in a few days, and will take a copy of the picture with me again to give to them.

Shearing & Drop Spindle, Willoc

Shearing & Drop Spindle, Willoc

On our Peru’09 program we again visited Willoc, and were shown a demonstration from start to finish of how the weaving is done – from shearing the wool to drop-spindle making the yarn, to dying the wool and finally the back-strap loom weaving.

While there we also were treated to a traditional meal and were shown the varieties of corn that are grown on the surrounding hillsides. The diffierent types are used for the fermented Chicha drink, toasting, cornmeal and other specialties.

As in other places in Peru, visitors are occasionally brought to small mountain villages. Mountain Spirit Institute limits our group size to a maximum of eight participants. Sustainable Travel International has guidelines on how to visit such communities as Willoc.

Learning about varieties of corn, Willoc

Learning about varieties of corn, Willoc

We feel at this point, there is a benefit to both the visitors and the villages for such visits, but they must be organized and done with care. One example, I always brief my particpants at the program start, and remind them of low-impact travel techniques, such as respectful use of the camera, matching voice volumes to that of local inhabitants, and follow cues from our hosts.

Our good friend, Anna Sequeros, a former president of the woman’s organization in the region has really worked wonders in bringing equality to village women in the area. More on that in another entry.

Sunapee/Outward Bound Program:New Webpage

23/04/2009
MSI's New Webpage on Sunapee's OB Program

MSI's New Webpage on Sunapee's OB Program

The MSI/Sunapee High School/Outward Bound Scholarship Program, now in it’s fourth year gets a new webpage. There is a host of information: past recipients, donors, an overview and goals of the the program and where to find out more. The program is gaining some traction both with students, the community and with Outward Bound’s scholarship department.  Thanks to former Recruiter and Scholarship coordinator Charlie Reade who helped MSI’s Executive Director R. Richards set up the program, a number of students have had a trip of a life time.

Image: Brian Baily-Mountain Yoga

Image: Brian Baily-Mountain Yoga

On the webpage are pics from Brian Baily’s Rock/Backpacking course in Colorado, and Hanna Baade’s sea kayaking program on the coast of Maine. Baade was the first recipient of the scholarship which was first supported by Sugar River Bank. More recently, Rotary International (New London, NH) and other organizations are aiding the effort.

The program is one of MSI’s first “service projects”, aimed at giving back to the community in which MSI is incorporated, and the director’s hometown. In all aspects of MSI, we incorporate a service component, whether it be a board meeting, a program to Peru or at the administration level. Again this inspiration comes from Outward Bound and Kurt Hahn in the first place.

On Rappel: North Cascades, WA, USA

On Rappel: North Cascades, WA, USA

You can check out the web page, and who knows, you may even be inclined to jump on the bandwagon and donate!

Donations can be sent to MSI’s office at:

Mountain Spirit Institute
POB 626
Sunapee, NH 03782
USA