Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Sunday, December 28, 2008
by Dan Joseph
Years ago, I set off on a cross-country trip with a friend. Our plan was to camp and hike our way through the National Parks of the western United States.
I had been living in a city for the previous few years, and was starved for natural beauty. And so, as we drove into Yosemite to begin our tour, I was riveted.
The mountains were breathtaking. The alpine fields were touching. I felt like a thirsty man who had stumbled into an oasis – there was beauty everywhere.
My friend and I backpacked for a few days along the waterfalls of Tuolumne Meadows. The landscape was magnificent. Then we moved on to Utah, and moonlit hikes among the spires of Bryce. We waded knee-deep in water up the canyons of Zion. We strolled through the tundra of the Rockies.
It was all stunning. Mountains, waterfalls, flowers – indescribable beauty. There were moments when I felt profoundly close to God. And that, of course, was why I really went to those places – to feel that sense of spiritual connection. To feel that transcendence.
But as the weeks passed, a curious thing happened. It began to be more difficult to get my "high." These mountains were great, of course – but they weren't much different than the ones from last week. That field was beautiful – but so were the others. I began to chase more dramatic scenery, looking for a spiritual lift.
Eventually I got to a point where I just couldn't make it happen. I did my best to extract a spiritual high from what I was seeing – the mountains, the fields – but I just couldn't do it. It was discouraging. Shortly thereafter, we ended the trip and I went back to my city life.
It took me years before I understood what had happened. In this article, I'd like to show how broadly the lesson can be applied.
Getting What You Give
On that trip, I fell into a common trap. I believed that I was getting my spiritual lift from something external – the mountains, the streams. This began a cycle of chasing better mountains, better streams.
In fact, though, my "high" was coming not from what I was getting from the mountains, but from what I was giving to them. Let me explain what I mean.
On the first day of my trip, I looked out at those mountains and said – so quickly I didn't realize it – "My goodness, you are profoundly beautiful. I love you." I was then immediately swept up in the joy of that thought. It seemed like the mountains were making me feel joyful. But it was really my love for the mountains that lifted me up.
If I had seen this, I could have kept the flow going. I could have entered each new park saying, "Ah, what wonderful things can I extend love to today?" But instead, I fell into the trap of trying to extract from externals. "I need better mountains," I thought, "bigger ones, something more dramatic." As I did that, the outflow of my appreciation was blocked – and thus, the sense of transcendence became harder and harder to reach.
I share this story because it illustrates the power of choice. We can choose – at any time, with any thing – to extend copious amounts of love and appreciation. And we will be instantly lifted up by our choice. We are in control of the outflow. There is nothing that prevents us from exercising our right to give.
I didn't realize this on my cross-country trip. I thought that I could only embrace the most dramatic, towering mountains. Or the most delicate, flower-sprinkled fields. But the fact is that I could have chosen a pebble on the path and enfolded it in waves of love and appreciation – and thus been lifted up.
There is a line from A Course in Miracles that speaks to this. The Course says that as we extend forgiveness – as we allow our hearts to embrace what we see – "The smallest leaf becomes a thing of wonder, and a blade of grass a sign of God's perfection."
The key is to realize that the power lies with us. We don't need to chase beauty, love, and
Of course, the "outflow" of kindness creates a simultaneous "inflow" of kindness – and sure enough, I begin to feel it. Although there may be some internal resistance at first, I find that this practice always produces positive results.
The lesson that we receive what we give is an empowering one. Instead of spending our time chasing externals, we can spend our time giving internals – and thus experiencing them. The power is in our hands, because we are always free to give.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Birth: Wonder...Astonishment...Adoration. There can't be very many of us for whom the sheer fact of existence hasn't rocked us back on our heels. We take off our sandals before the burning bush. We catch our breath at the sight of a plummeting hawk. "Thank you, God." We find ourselves in a lavish existence in which we feel a deep sense of kinship-we belong here; we say thanks with our lives to Life. And not just "Thanks" or "Thanks It" but "Thank You." Most of the people who have lived on this planet earth have identified this You with God or gods. This is not just a matter of learning our manners, the way children are taught to say thank you as a social grace. It is the cultivation of adequateness within ourselves to the nature of reality, developing the capacity to sustain an adequate response to the overwhelming gift and goodness of life.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Midwest Mountaineering is proud to host the festival's 33rd anniversary world tour.
Click for Festival Info.
The Banff Mountain Film Festival (held in Banff, Alberta from November 1st to 9th, 2008) accepts over three hundred mountain films into it's competition, the top fifty or so are screened throughout the festival. Every year the films feature a range of styles and themes, including climbing, skiing, kayaking, biking, adventure, culture and the environment.
Prizes are awarded in eight categories: Grand Prize, Climbing, Mountain Sports, Mountain Environment, Mountain Culture, Short Mountain Film, and Feature-Length Mountain Film, and People's Choice. The international jury will announce the Best of the Festival award winners at the awards ceremony on Sunday, November 9th.
The tour brings a selection of the best films from the festival right here to Midwest Mountaineering! Whether you are an experienced mountaineer or an armchair adventurer, this event is for everyone. Don’t miss the excitement!
Banff Festival Update
The Banff Mountain Film Festival pre-screening committee viewed 296 films during the month of September and 53 finalists have been selected.
Our Friday, Nov 21 and Saturday, Nov 22 will contain completely different films. You may want to attend both nights and see all of the films!Mel and I are taking our dates on Saturday night.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Let the word of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be accptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength, my Redemer.
A word fitly spoken, wrote the wise Solomon, is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.
Like Jello, concepts assume the mold of the words into which they are poured. Who has not been stabbed awake by the use of a particular word... or combination of words? Who has not found relief from a well-timed word spoked at the precise moment of need. Who has not gathered fresh courage because of a word of hope penetrated the fog of self-doubt? The word word remains the most powerful of all four letter words.
But a word fitly spoken endures.-Charles Swindoll
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Thanks for considering this fun event.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
We will travel to YMCA Camp Menogyn located off the Gun Flint Trail by coach bus. There is much for you to do in this pristine wilderness playground. Explore the beautiful northwoods by snowshoe, dog sled or backcountry skiis. You can also ski the world class trails at Bearskin Lodge. Opportunities for artistic expression, yoga, worship and sauna will also be available for your exploration. Grab you friend, sister, cousin, mom or fly solo on this wonderful winter weekend.
Transportation, warm lodgings and most food is included in the price of $225. Oh, and the food is wonderful! Take a look at the slide show in this blog and sign up.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you need encouragement or click this link to sign up online.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
We decided to meet the 4th Tuesday, every other month at my house. Here is the schedule.
January -A Woman's Path, Women's Best Spiritual Travel Writing
March- East Towards Dawn by Nan Watkins
May- Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Find the courage to face your biggest fears
By Sally Kempton
Scott, an ex-Special Forces guy I met in the late 1980s, had spent 20 years as a covert operative for hyperdangerous missions. He was one of those guys who would sneak into Soviet embassies in places like Cambodia to steal secret papers. Then the Cold War ended and he went home to someplace like Pennsylvania. There he discovered that his formerly hard-drinking parents had gotten sober, joined AA, and wanted Scott to go to Al-Anon, the 12-step program for relatives of alcoholics.
"What you have to realize," he said, "is that in all my years in the Special Forces, I'd never been afraid. I loved danger, and I was really good at it. But when I walked into that meeting, I was so terrified that I couldn't stay in the room."
Scott had literally never spent a moment looking at himself or at the source of his pain. The world of feelings was a place of darkness for him and, like all unknown territory, profoundly scary. But he faced his fear and not only went back to that Al-Anon meeting but decided to journey further into himself by learning to meditate. For Scott, that was about as brave an act as, say, parachute jumping would be for me.
Scott's story redefined my understanding of courage. I'd always thought of courage as synonymous with what hard-boiled novelists used to call "guts." I'd assumed that if you were unafraid of physical harm, you were, basically, unafraid. Scott helped me realize, though, that courage and fearlessness are not the same-in fact, if we didn't have fears, we wouldn't need courage. Courage implies moving through fear.
An act that takes tremendous courage for one person might be someone else's "no big deal," or even their day job. For me, doing an unsupported Handstand is an act of courage, yet I'm unfazed by stuff that terrifies others-speaking in front of a thousand people without notes, for instance, or facing my own anger. And, of course, each of us has a different edge, a psychological precipice beyond which lies a personal abyss. Your edge could be the 500-foot drop below a mountain footbridge. It may be the fear of career suicide that keeps you from speaking out about corporate wrongdoing, or the fear of losing your partner's love that paralyzes you when you try to convey certain truths about yourself. Your edge might be very subtle indeed-it might be, for instance, the moment your boundaries dissolve in meditation. The point is that each of us, sometime, will be asked to step past the borders of the known world and do something that scares us. Courage is that quality of heart that lets us do it.
Home of the Brave
Anyone who reads inspirational literature knows that the English word "courage" comes from the French coeur, meaning heart. One Sanskrit word for courage is saurya, which has the same root as the Sanskrit word for sun. In fact, many ancient systems associate the sun-heart of the solar system—with the pulsing, radiant muscle at the center of our circulatory system. I like the heart image, with its implication that courage comes from the center of being, from the organ that most directly resounds with the pulsation of life.
Like the heart itself, courage is a lotus with many petals, all of them associated with qualities that even the most sardonic of us celebrate: bravery, strength, steadiness, trust, self—reliance, integrity, love. And also, let's be honest, recklessness. In my teens, when I thought the way to conquer fear was to plunge headlong into whatever I was scared to do, I often found myself in dicey situations. Now, though I shake my head at some of the decisions I made, I see that the recklessness I once indulged in had that heart—full quality that marks courageous behavior. At the very least, it developed some courage muscles, some habits of acting in the face of fear that would later enable me to hold steady through some difficult life choices.
Nonetheless, there's a difference between that impulsive courage—the kind that leads people to charge into battle without a plan or to have unprotected sex with people who don't love them—and the courage of a Martin Luther King Jr. or an Aung San Suu Kyi (the Burmese champion of democracy who has lived under house arrest for years). Or, for that matter, the courage of an ordinary person who lives with hard choices without flinching.
So, what does courage tempered by wisdom look like? How is it different from the kind of courage that prompts our friends to say "You're so brave!" when what they're really thinking is "You're so out of your mind!"
The Raw and the Cooked
Basically, we're talking about the difference between the raw and the cooked, the green and the ripened. Between the two lies a world of discipline, surrender, and experience.
Raw courage, for one thing, is based on emotion, fueled by anger and desire. It often acts out of noble motives—the civil rights workers of the 1960s, who were my first models of courage, were driven by the most intense idealism. Yet raw courage can also operate without morals or ethics; it can work in the service of aims that are unconscious, deluded, or even sleazy. The real mark of uncooked courage is the trail it leaves—often, a karmic minefield of misunderstanding, pain, and enmity that can injure us if it isn't cleared.
Cooked or ripe courage, on the other hand, contains discipline, wisdom, and, especially, a quality of presence. Skill has something to do with it, of course. It's much easier to act bravely when we know how to do what we're doing, like the well-trained soldier who goes into battle with a clear strategy. Ultimately, though, ripened courage rests on a profound trust in something greater than your own abilities—it lies in trusting the Self, the Divine, the stability of one's own center.
That level of trust comes only from inner experience, from spiritual maturity. Out of that trust, a person with ripe courage can often surrender both the fear of losing and the desire to win, and act for the sake of action, even for the sake of love. A famous Zen story tells of a monk whose temple is invaded by an enemy warrior. "Do you know that I have the power to kill you with this sword?" the warrior says. The monk replies, "Do you know that I have the power to let you?"
Ripe courage arises from that stillness. In the budo martial arts tradition, it's said that the source of courage is a willingness to die, to lose everything—not because we don't value life but because we've entered so fully into our own center that we know it will hold through death. In such a state, they say, a samurai can pacify an enemy without picking up a sword, because the stillness is contagious. The samurai's courage is based on Zen practice—a continuous emptying of the mind in meditation, a settling into inwardness, and finally a surrender into egoless awareness that is, to the small self, like literally dying.
There's more than one way to get to the source of courage, of course. The grace-based path to inner courage comes from opening into love, through prayer as well as contemplation, and from trust in the power of a divine source. One of my teachers said that the great question to contemplate in any situation is, In what do you place your trust? He would say that if your trust is in something truly great, your sense of being will expand into that greatness. If your trust is in something limited, even in your own strength of body, mind, or will, it eventually lets you down. Fear, after all, is based on the feeling of separation and smallness. Where there's an experience of your deeper being, there's also an experience of profound strength, because you sense your connection to everything and therefore find nothing to fear.
Whether we approach the truth of our being through the emptying of Self, like the great martial artists, or through a devotional opening to grace, like Gandhi or King, we always seem to go through the doors of stillness, centering, and surrender. The more we are in touch with the center and the source beyond it, the more we are able to touch the courage that doesn't rise only during a crisis but also enables us to keep getting up in the morning and face our interior darkness or buried grief, to hang in through the slogging grind of transformative practice, to stand up for what is right again and again, without bitterness—or at least only a little.
A young woman recently told me how she found that place of courage. Joan (not her real name) had volunteered to teach yoga in a probation program for adolescent girls. She realizes now that she expected the teenagers to understand yoga and her own good intentions immediately. Instead, they made fun of the poses and of her. Soon she was dreading the classes and seeing them as a test of strength.
"I felt that I had to win them over," Joan said. "Not just so I'd know I was a real teacher but also out of this old high school need to be accepted. Of course, the more I tried, the worse it got. The girls would mimic me, laugh at me, roll their eyes at my increasingly lame attempts at humor."
One day, the class got so out of control that she found herself screaming instructions into a sea of noise. All her fears seemed to rise up at the same time: the fear of inadequacy, the physical fear of violence, but especially the fear of losing control, of having to reveal her complete inability to cope with the situation.
She felt paralyzed. For five minutes she stood silently, taking in the chaotic scene. Then, she began to ask internally, "What should I do?" Nothing arose. Then, it was as if time stopped. She heard a sound forming at the back of her mouth. She opened her mouth, and "Ahhhhhh" began to come out. She heard her voice getting louder and louder, an overtone in the room. The girls began looking around for the source of the sound. Then she heard herself say, "Stop. Listen. Hear the echo of your own voices."
As she said that, for just a moment, she could feel herself standing in the heart of the universe. Nothing was outside her. The girls stopped. They listened. Then, in tones of wonder, they began to share what they'd heard: silence in between sounds, the sound of Om, a bell-like ringing, a sound like the beating of a heart.
It wasn't the last time Joan lost control of her class. But by stopping and stepping into the unknown, she had somehow made contact with her own source, with inspiration, and with the simple beingness of the girls in her class.
I believe that this state is what the Zen masters are talking about when they speak of dying into the ground of being. A Tantric text called the Stanzas on Vibration says in a famous verse that the heart of the universe, the pulsation of divine power, is fully present in moments of terror, intense anger, or absolute impasse. The secret of discovering that power is to turn inward, toward the center of your fear or confusion, to let go of your thoughts and emotions about the situation, and allow the energy at the heart to expand. That's where superhuman strength comes from. It just takes courage.
In What Do You Trust?
Sit quietly and contemplate your own style of courage. What do you think were your most courageous acts? Remember that they may not look like classic acts of heroism; any moment when you stand up to your own fear counts. Where was your edge in those moments? What did you gain from going beyond it?
Now, ask yourself, "At this time in my life, what is my edge? What's the biggest thing I'm confronting? Where do I need to exercise courage?"
Now breathe in and out of the heart and imagine the presence of a radiant sun in the center of your chest. When you feel connected inwardly, ask your heart, "In what can I place my trust?" Then begin to write, without thought, whatever arises. After you've written everything that comes up, you may want to stop and ask again. You can keep asking the question, with the intent to get deeper and deeper. Don't worry if tears arise, or old memories. Keep asking the question until you get a sense of a deeper center. The answer may come immediately, or over the next few hours or days.
Sally Kempton, also known as Durgananda, is an author, a meditation teacher, and the founder of the Dharana Institute. For more information, visit www.sallykempton.com.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Also I am working with the Westside Girls and Boys Club to coordinate an outside activity on the first Saturday Afternoon of each month for a small group of young team in the Keystone Program for Leadership Development. We are looking for adults to lead programs including but not limited to snowshoeing, orienteering, archery, skiing, nature hikes, geo-caching, fishing, icefishing. Whatever your area of interest we would like you to share your passion. Come and help once or joing us monthly to build relationships. Call or email me to talk about it further. 762-9139 email@example.com.
What you do for the least of these, you do for me.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Date: October 8, 2008
Alternative Date: October 9, 2008 in case of bad weather
Meet at Osceola Landing 9:30 am
End at Loghouse LandingOn your way back home 3:00 pm
Anyone with a canoe and a partner (or a kayak) can join us on Oct 8, We will meet at the Osceola landing in the park under the Osceola bridge to unload canoes at 9:30 am and start out by 10:00. We will stop 3 times for snacks and hikes along the way. One hike is along the cliffs of the St Croix in a beautiful yellow Maple forest--you would think God put you into another land that is transformed by it golden beauty. We will end at the Loghouse Landing north of William O'Brien State Park. It's a leisurely fun day trip. We'll have a car parked at the Loghouse Landing to carry people back to Osceola to get their cars.You'll be loaded up and on the way back home by 3:00 pm. Please call Suzanne at 651-426-1967 if you're interested in going.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Join us for the first meeting of The Women on the Edge Adventure Book Club. all are welcome. For our first meeting we will do this; choose a book about Women and Adventure, read it and come to our meeting to share what you have read about. We will meet Oct 14th at 7:00 p.m. Email Lisa firstname.lastname@example.org to find out the secret location of the meeting.
Be adventurous! Google Women+ Adventure and see what you can find!
We are looking for a few volunteers to work at our booth on Dream Day, Sept 7. Choose 9:00-11:00 am or 11:00am- 1:00 pm. Just put on your Women on the Edge attire and show up to urge other women to participate. Email Lisa if you would like to help out.
I would like to invite you to a campfire at my home at on Sept. 16 at 7:00p.m. Please rsvp and I will tell you where I live! We will celebrate the past year and plan for 2009 trips. Com'on, there will be s'mores
Would you like to be notified automatically when there is am update to the blog?
Would you like to express by writing a post for this blog?
Would you like to stand on your head and yell "Fish!
Shoot me an email, I will do my best to assist you! email@example.com
Friday, August 8, 2008
Paraphrased from A Spiritual Field Guide by Bernard Brady and Mark Neuzil.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
I told the backpacking crew that I'd schedule training hikes for interested folks..... (Probably William O'brien or Sunfish since terrain is similar to Birkie trail)
Interested? email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Sunday, July 27, 2008
The Dragon Boat Team has returned from the North Shore victoriously once more! We were a testimony to the power of fire, water and the love of God all over Grand Marais. You will find a slide show posted here. However you may notice that there are no actual Dragon Boating Pictures. That's cuz I was buzyt paddling like a mad woman! Send your photos to me and I will add them to the slide show. It was a great weekend, ladies! I feel blessed to know each and everyone of you!
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Monday, July 14, 2008
Philippians 1:27 Whatever happens, Conduct yourselves worthy of the Gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit contending as one man for the faith of the gospel
In order to live in Christ and stand firm in the gospel as this text encourages us to do, we all need spiritual refueling, we need to be recharged, we need to visit the wise man on top of the mountain for some answers. Jesus went to the mountain top to pray, Noah’s Ark came to rest there, Moses experienced the burning bush there. It’s a thin place between heaven and earth,. We feel as if we can reach out and touch the hand of God. That’s great, do it. Go to the mountain top.
But we can’t live on a mountain top, the air molecules are very far apart and there are no trees, like the moon a great place to visit but you just can’t live there. We are charged to go out, to be salt and light, be in the world and not of it. Be the gospel!
Lord, Please grant me the opportunity for a mountain top experience, wherever I may be. Fill me up so that I can be a blessing in your world. Amen.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Monday, July 7, 2008
From the South: Take I-35 north. Take the Taylors Falls Exit, Hwy 8 East. Follow 8 approximately 22 miles. The entrance to the park office is located on the right hand side of the road 1.5 miles before downtown Taylors Falls. Here is the link fto a fine map if you would like it!
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Friday, July 25 – Sunday, July 27
Be a part of the St. Andrews WOTE Dragon Boat Race Team! Join a league of 22 women paddlers for the adrenalin rush you have been longing for! Once again, Grand Marais, MN and the shores of Lake Superior will be the stage for the Dragon Boat Festival. No paddling or parade experience needed. We will camp in the Municipal Campground and have complete run of this charming town. Your fee of $125 reserves your spot in the boat. Sign up today at www.saintandrews.org.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Sunday, July 13 at 10:00 a.m.
Meet at St. Andrew's and carpool to the canoe launch at Interstate Park at Taylor's Falls. Bring your own craft or rent one there (cost is approx $35). There is no additional cost to this event so please bring a lunch or better yet a treat to share. This would be a great chance for the dragon boat team to practice paddling! Sign up by July 8.