Freedom….

Scorching temperatures belie summer’s waning in my spot in the Universe. Lazy days recall fond memories of time seeming to stand still yet fly by with a wink and most of all… Continue reading

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Cultivating Peace

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Columbine Trail, Lake Chabot

Most Saturday mornings find me running at the lake near my home. It’s a difficult, 9-mile run with terrain that changes from flat to 30% slopes and back again through scenery that will catch your breath. Parts of the trail are so narrow that a distracted mind is a footfall down steep gorges; you have to mind the three R’s: Roots, Rocks, and Ruts.

And it’s perfect for me…

This is the last run of the week for which the reward is a long tub soak and a day off for yoga on Sunday. It’s here that I cultivate peace; in my mind, my body and my spirit (ok yoga does that too, but not as much as this run). It’s here that I am able to observe the restrictions and obstacles I’ve been facing without fighting or judging and just breathe into it; work to my edge and focus on letting go. In the midst of this challenge I learn to be attentive, patient and focused; this brings me serenity, peace, solace, redemption.

Renewed, I can go out into the world with my perspective reframed, recommitted to my intentions and able to be the charm in other people’s days and an ambassador of peace.

How are you cultivating peace?

Flying through the Trees

Blocked. The words stopped coming. My muse had left me. Too much time in front of the computer.

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart,” encouraged William Wordsworth nearly three centuries ago. I couldn’t think, let alone breathe. Good old Willy was such a romantic. Everything probably looked and sounded better on parchment in quill ink.

I decided to head out–anywhere but here would do a girl a world of good. I didn’t really have a destination in mind as I pointed my car west and somehow ended up in RedwoodPark.

It was a weekday and there weren’t any other cars around as I pulled into the lot. “Good,” I thought, “people-free solitude.” It was unseasonably warm and the sunny, crystal clear day was already clearing my head.

I started to hike down the paved trail and as I descended deeper into the woods, I could feel a sense of calm and release creep over me. Nature is a healing balm. In spite of the lack of a truly wet winter, the forest was verdant with massive ferns and moss-robed redwoods. A gentle trickle was even flowing in the creek. The air was redolent with the musky smell of damp earth and sweet decay of fallen pine fronds which enraptured my senses. Dappled light was scattering through the canopy above sending shadows pirouetting across my path. What splendid idyll. I picked up my pace and started to jog.

All my tension fell away as the freedom of the spaciousness liberated my psyche. Energized, I was now in full gallop (Ping, my Chinese neighbor, branded me a horse when I run). Then I heard them, the sound of footfalls in the distance behind me. I looked back. Nobody. “Maybe it’s my echo,” I pondered. Undaunted and with cheetah-like stealth I pressed forward deeper into the trail, finally finding my rhythm.

Soon I reached the spot where the trail narrows and wends its way up and down along steeper slopes. A challenge but I felt like I was capable of moving the world. Suddenly, there it was again. Someone was pacing me only this time heavy breathing joined the running feet. My pulse quickened as my adrenaline surged and then I felt it. My spine tingled as a shiver coursed from my sacrum to the top of my head as the realization hit me, “I’m not alone.” “Just keep going,” I urged as I ramped up my pace until I felt like I was flying, flitting through the trees like a woodland sylph. Still, I was being pursued.

In my distracted state I lost my footing when a tree root popped out of nowhere stopping me short. I was falling, then not. I felt a pair of strong arms around my waist arresting my descent to the muddy trail. I struggled to free myself to no avail. Warm hands spun me around without letting go. What my eyes beheld left me in rapturous awe, a man with the visage of a Mayan god.

He wore the most intriguing medieval-looking carved amulet at the base of his throat secured by a leather lanyard. From the curve of his nose, broad forehead and honeyed, brown-sugar tone of his skin to the fullness of his lips and rock-solid body that was now firmly pressed against mine, this image of masculine beauty indicated a regal lineage and made me think one of two things had happened:

I had died and gone to heaven.

OR

I hit my head in the fall and was having the most pleasurable, exotic dream of my life.

“You’re hard to catch, like a feather blowing in the wind,” he spoke.

Guess I wasn’t dead.

“Are you okay?” he asked. On reflex, I touched his face.

He was real…..perhaps I’m not dreaming either.

I faltered. “Um. I am now,” I nearly whispered as I searched his sable-brown eyes for encouragement… Captivated by the weight of his stare, I began to catch a glimpse of what I thought was his soul. All at once it Continue reading

Hiking in the Fog

During certain times of the year, the area where I live becomes blanketed with the marine layer that rolls in from the ocean. I often like to go hiking in the fog because it is otherworldly. Your awareness is heightened and your senses become more keen. It is like a living organism, heaving its heavy dampness as it fingers its way through the hills and valleys. Then suddenly, you are above it all…

Signs

It's a sign! Someone built a cairn on my thinking spot on the Pleasanton Ridge.

We’ve all had them, those gut feelings or a sixth sense about something. Or, that moment when you thought of someone and they called or came by to see you. It’s our intuition guiding us on our path.

My favorite author, Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist and, most recently, Aleph) refers to these as signs. It’s a common thread that has been embroidered in the tapestry of his works. In a recent podcast he explains that the language of signs is unique to each person and that if we tune into them it’s as if the Universe is speaking directly to us, conspiring to bring us to our highest good. At times, this may look entirely differently than our egos would want. So we ignore the nudges and omens being lobbed at us, taking wrong turns or ending up at a dead end. Paulo assures that it’s okay to make mistakes when learning a new language.

I’ve been guilty of not following the signs, a lot. Recently I have noticed that the more I tune in, life flows and seems to be in its perfect place.

What are some signs that you notice or which speak to you?

Lake Chabot

“The world is too much with us; late and soon, getting and spending we lay waste our powers; little we see in Nature that is ours; we have given our hearts away, a sordid boon.”

~William Wordsworth

In 2010 I embarked on a hiking mission fueled by my desire to hike the Camino de Santiago in Spain (750km over a 14 day period). The regional park district in my area (East Bay Regional Park District) was coordinating with Kaiser Permanente to encourage area residents to get fit by hosting “Fitness to Trails Challenge”. Each participant was to hike and log a marathon’s worth of hiking throughout the park district’s lands (26 miles, not all at once unless by choice). A long time hiker, this was right up my alley and timely preparation for reaching my Camino goal.

I took the opportunity to visit some parks I hadn’t ventured into. Lake Chabot, a stone’s throw from my home, offered a 13-mile hike around a beautiful lake with a terrain that changed from verdant to almost desert-like along a somewhat moderate trail with peaks and valleys for an interesting challenge.

Read my thoughts about a day at the Lake:

…As I crested a rise in the trail, a break in the trees revealed a bird’s eye view of a lone fisherman, shrouded in tule fog, casting his line from his boat (reminded me of my dad). Soon, I crossed a long, narrow, wooden footbridge that traversed a gorge and led me to a steep ascent (harkening back to a mountain biking trek I took along the Cuale River in Mexico). The sun began to climb high in the sky and I took a rest on a stone wall next to a waterfall and brook. Sunlight was filtering through the massive ferns, giant rhododendrons and towering eucalyptus trees creating otherworldly shapes on the trail. Suddenly it caught my eye as it lay up ahead; a dead mole. I had never seen one before alive or dead. It was interesting the way it simply appeared to be sleeping; a perfect still life…

“When he feels the wind blowing through him on a high peak or sleeps under a closely matte white bark pine in an exposed basin, he is apt to find his relationship to the Universe.”

~Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas