Posts Tagged ‘Wilderness’

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.

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

The Wasatch Mountains, Under Pressure Again

04/03/2012

backcountry skiing Big Cottonwood's USA Canyon, behind The Canyons, site of the proposed "SkiLink"

Once again, the Wasatch mountains outside of Salt Lake City, Utah are being threatened by ski resort expansion under the guise of a transportation solution. I spent many years in the Wasatch, and during my absence, Dick Bass has managed to put not only a chairlift in Mineral Basin on the back side of Snowbird, (read “DogBird”, the name coined by mountain guide Dennis Turville) but a crazy tunnel (locals call it the Bass Hole) complete with magic carpet conveyer belt-type rig, under Hidden Peak to allow intermediate skiers access to the once pristine back bowl, Then there’s cat skiing somewhere near Ruth’s pass above Alta, and not to mention the insanity of helicopter skiing on national forest lands.

This proposed development would severely impact the backcountry ski experience and wilderness qualities of the beautiful Wasatch mountains. If you’re a Utah resident, or even a visitor to the Wasatch and you’ve had just about enough encroachment in one range, visit SaveOurCanyons’ website here to chime in and see what you can do to help give your two cents worth.

A sane backcountry skier points out where the proposed SkiLink would go, obliterating acres and acres of pristine backcountry ski terrain and wilderness area.

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.

Thanks to Our Supporters

09/06/2010

MSI Contributors

Mountain Spirit Institute thanks all donors past and present, in part, by creating a webpage on our site dedicated to all who have donated time, financial support, gifts in kind, and talent to furthering the mission of Mountain Spirit Institute.

To all of you who have contributed to our organization, we, the board members, and on behalf of our program participants past, present and future, to whom your donations benefit, we thank you with deepest gratitude.

In Spirit of the Mountains!
Thank you
Dexter R. Richards, Founder,
Executive Director

If you, or someone you know, would like to make a tax deductible donation to MSI, you can do so on our support page.

Willie Unsoeld and the Spiritual Values of Wilderness

01/11/2008

Willie Unsoeld, along with Kurt Hahn are some of the biggest influences on Mountain Spirit’s founder. There is large collection of material on Unsoeld at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Here is a snapshot of Unosoeld’s thinking, taken from a lecture.

The Spiritual Values of Wilderness
From Pacific Crest Outward Bound School Book of Readings

And so what is the final test of the efficacy of this wilderness experience we’ve just been through together? Because having been there, in the mountains, alone, in the midst of solitude, and this feeling, this mystical feeling if you will, of the ultimacy of joy and whatever there is. The question is, “Why not stay out there in the wilderness the rest of your days and just live in the lap of Satori or whatever you want to call it?” And the answer, my answer to that is, “Because that’s not where people are.” And the final test for me of the legitimacy of the experience is, “How well does your experience of the sacred in nature enable you to cope more effectively with the problems of mankind when you come back to the city?”

And now you see how this phases with the role of wilderness, It’s a renewal exercise and as I visualize it, it leads to a process of alternation. You go to nature for your metaphysical fix – your reassurance that there’s something behind it all and it’s good. You come back to where people are, to where people are messing things up, because people tend to, and you come back with a new ability to relate to your fellow souls and to help your fellow souls relate to each other.

Willi Unsoeld, Former Director of Northwest Outward Bound
Founding Board Member of Evergreen State College
[Edited: Male references replaced with non-gender specific terms]