Twelve by Twelve

via Twelve by Twelve

By William Martin

This fits so well with the discussion of the appropriate size of dwelling and the mindset that accompanies it, that I am sharing this guest blog from Will’s Freedom, Simplicity and Joy site. I had hoped to repost the whole piece, but have been having human error problems. For now, I am glad to send you to his site which holds added riches that you may also enjoy.

In Physical Training for a New Life

There are many days when I feel that my most important task is to be in training for the new life that we are creating. As we piece together what it means to live in balance, harmony and honor with the Earth, the first phase for me is physical training.

It began with the lengthening of walks and the addition of longer hikes into our lives. In June, a 45 minute walk on fairly level terrain was the “big walk” done at most 2 -3 times a week. Once completed, there was the feeling that all of the physical energy for the day had been consumed. Lunch, followed by nap, followed by watching movies on DVD was the norm.

The turning point was meeting Flora and the Strolling Bears (a group of senior adult amblers). They are avid hikers who hike  4 – 6+ miles, once a week, on a wide variety of trails; including some very steep and challenging climbs. They walk at a a slow pace, and invite each participant to listen to their body – rest, turn for home, or keep going depending on the energy of the day. They will not leave anyone behind who is lagging, but pause at each change in the trail to let everyone catch up, rest and be assured that they know the way.

You will see on the Favorite Hikes page, that it is not unusual for us to spend 3 -4 hours walking around Lake Siskiyou; climbing from Bunny Flat to Horse Camp, or taking the McBride Trail from Gateway to the campground. When we are with the Strolling Bears, we visit with people who love nature; tell us the names of flowers and birds; and share their joy in living simply and hiking often.

Our “shorter routes” at Gateway (about 1 1/2 – 2 hours), are what we now think of as  “strolls” or everyday walks. Through the summer and into the autumn we have tried take these strolls several times a week.

When we are on our own, Will, ( my husband), takes a good leading start, so we can each spend time in communion with the healing spirit of The Mountain and our spiritual ancestors and guides in this journey back to unity with the land. There are occasional insights and new perspectives that emerge as we walk. More often it is simply sinking into the beauty and harmony of nature: sky, breeze, trees and brush, rocks and hillsides, and a variety of animal and bird companions. If nothing else is emerging, we each sing a song that is our reminder to open up to the path ahead.

The July – September part of my path was building my stamina, leg strength and physical confidence. The altitude and steep last half mile of the climb to Horse Camp still leaves my heart pounding and calls for “breathers.” Now, after three visits, I feel comfortable negotiating the downhill rocky stretches as well as the uphill push. A few weeks ago we made the whole 6.8 mile circle around Lake Siskiyou for the first time.

The growing confidence in my body translates to being more at ease in nature. I can relax and experiment. My view broadens to include more tree-tops and sky views – including a golden eagle that circled over the Gateway path the other morning. There is a stretch of the Horse Camp trail that I did barefoot last month, enjoying the sensation as the temperature of the sand shifted from cold in the shade to warm in the sunshine.

It all seems connected with not needing to be coddled and protected from the challenges of life. When I move in nature in this sense of freedom and strength, I know that I no longer want to be insulated from this wonderful planet. While the weather is beginning to shift, there is still time for a few more hikes up high on the mountain before the snow. Then, it may be time to borrow snow shoes and give that a try.

Birthday Hike

I had known for months that this year, for my 60th birthday, I wanted to make a pilgrimage hike to Panther Meadows, high on the slopes of Mount Shasta. We live near this amazing mountain and I have visited Panther Meadows many times. I always feel the sacred nature of the alpine wilderness. It has been a place for shamans and healers of the people of these lands for generations – a place where they hold ceremonies and gather plants for the healing of the Earth and the people of these lands.

A couple of weeks before my birthday, we spotted a notice about Dog Trail from Bunny Flat up to the Old Ski Bowl parking area. It is an alternate trail, marked only by pink ribbons tied to the trees. As soon as I saw it, I know that would be my birthday hike.

Early in my hike I greeted all of the spirits of this powerful mountain and the life of these slopes. I soon felt more open to the feel of the air currents on my face and the song of the birds in surrounding trees.

I felt that I was walking in the midst of the ancient people of this place, not as phantoms, but as helping spiritual guides. I was encouraged to return to the power within my belly – the energy of life rises from the core in the belly, igniting the fire of the heart, and creates a balanced dance between heart and mind. This all emerges as wholeness in physical form.

This unknown trail (from 6,950 ft to above 7,800 ft in 2.5 miles) had some very steep climbs that left me winded and feeling the challenge in my muscles. I began to see that this pilgrimage was about the physical more than the spiritual. It was a call to set aside all of the limiting images of being a premature baby; sickly uncoordinated child; not capable of much physical activity or endurance. It was an introduction into becoming a “Tough old bird” – a woman comfortable in nature and capable of a difficult climb.

It took me 2.5 hours to climb that 2.5 miles. I paused several times to rest and eat some snacks and drink water. On one of those stops I began laughing as how much I was beginning to feel like “The Woman on the Mountain.” I continued the next 1/4 mile down into Panther Meadow and enjoyed my lunch while being held in the arms of my favorite sacred tree.

I considered the 3 mile walk back down the roadway to my car, but knew that I had fulfilled all I needed for the day. Gratefully, I accepted a ride from a National Forest Volunteer back to my car. He was the one who spoke to me of 60 being the age when one becomes free.

That was two months age. Little did I know all of the freedom that was beginning to break into my life.

WHAT ABOUT NW BOOKBINDING ???

This is question that has come pouring in from friends and relatives ever since we announced our plan to shift to full-time RV living. People who love me and who don’t want me to lose this right-livelihood craft work are asking how I will fit presses, papers, tools and equipment into the RV and outdoor living that is ahead.

The short answer is: I do not know. I keep envisioning possibilities from outdoor canopy space to shared space in an art coop to letting it go entirely. So, I do not know if, where and how it may find its place in the next phase of my life.

What I do know is that I enjoy bookbinding and repair work. It was a life-saving discovery for me when I let go of the identity and role of being a full-time Zen Center guide. Since my childhood, I had carried the “Teacher” self-image and though it had gone through a number of adaptations through the years, I held that as a core understanding of what I had to offer in the world. When it fell away, there was a huge gap and I was delighted when the art and creativity of making and restoring books emerged as a next step. It was a wonderful place to put my time and energy. In providing that bookbinding has already fulfilled a vital role in my life.

Over the past 7-8 years, I have invested both financially and physically in taking training in bookbinding and repair; equipping a studio with tools and supplies for various projects; and developing a craft fair booth design to enhance NW Bookbinding/ Cherished Books. I have even gathered a small handful of investors who have added their financial support to the business.

While in the early years, I did quite well binding Bill’s Tao books, (great success with The Parent’s Tao Te Ching and  Sage’s Tao Te Ching), more recent years have brought less financial return. I have continued to do hand bound gift editions of Bill’s Tao books, and this year added three books in the public domain to the list. (You can see all available title at NW Cherished Books ). Journals have sold moderately well at many craft fairs. The repair business has been steady and incredibly interesting through the years. Yet, whether due to my lack of determination and drive, (craftspeople have to work extremely hard to make a living wage) or the diminishing interest in journals and books, NW Bookbinding has been a minimal success. Big expenses of equipment and training have added to our debt and the moderate income each year barely meets the ongoing expense of materials. Yet, shifted to the smaller scale of our more simple life, it may be one of those little creeks of income flow that will nurture us. Who knows?

More important to those who are asking: Bookbinding is not a core identity for me. I enjoy the work and will continue it if I have the opportunity, but I will not feel diminished in any way if it does not fit with this next phase of my life. When I envision living “in deep connection with the Earth and for the benefit of all beings,” the bookbinding area is not something that first comes into focus. Being willing to let it go may open the way for it to find a new form, or it may just be another enjoyable chapter of my life that weighs too much to carry forward with me.

In the meantime, there are craft fairs coming up this fall to prepare for. Just this week, I entered an arrangement with the owner of a Gift shop in McCloud to sell journals, books and art pads on consignment in her store. Basically, I handed over 2/3 of my stock and will be spending a good bit of time in the studio to have a good selection for the Apple Harvest Festival in mid-October. For now, I remain a bookbinder and repair person and will be working to use up as many of my papers and other materials as I can in the coming months.

 

Eagle’s Point of View

As I look forward to the transformation of our lives  — toward living in harmony, honor and peace within nature  — my habitual mind wants me to focus on the specifics. It has all kinds of questions about the what, when and where of this transition. It wants to pin me down about how life will work with all of the day to day details. In general, it wants to push for answers I do not have, in hopes of boxing me back in and convincing me to stay the culturally approved course for someone my age and background.

Also, we have told friends and relatives that we are preparing to birth something new in our lives. This puts us in a communal as well as individual gestation process. Those who love us are being asked to integrate a different image of Bill/Nancy into their experience. They have to find how it fits with who they have known us to be; their images of appropriate living in the senior years; and their own life experiences and inner voices. We know that this it not an easy thing for some of them to do, and so we will stay quiet and open, hoping to respond to them in a way that mirrors their love for us.

Both of these processes tend to throw me into the mental habit of “figuring things out.” Yet, at the core of this journey is the heart, and not the brain. My human perspective can not lead me through the inner transformation that is involved in stepping out of the main culture into a life lived for the healing of Mother Earth and her children. For that, I seek the spiritual wisdom within.

I recently asked, in a Shamanic journey, if there is a power animal guide who has specific wisdom for this transition period in my life. Golden Eagle is the one who appeared. My perspective can not be earthbound, but must be broader. The focus should be on “weaving an appropriate human expression within nature.” (I am not quite sure what that message means). This is not about a change in the size and shape of my home, but in my understanding that I am not a separate being in relationship with nature and light, I am nature and light – one strand in the web of all life.

Eagle offers to carry me, so I can gain perspective and so I can learn his trust in riding the air currents. There is no illusion that I will control Eagle in his dance with the wind. The way events, people, circumstances and created things flow in, around, and through our lives will remain a mystery.  Not all winds are gentle or sweet. We do not need them to be. Learning to trust that all of the experiences of life are moving on currents that  nurture our becoming is the heart of this journey.

So, I will continue to listen with my heart, and to focus on what it means for me to become “an appropriate weaving of a human expression within nature.”

Woman on the Mountain

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I don’t think that I could make this shift of lifestyle without the inspiration of the image of The Woman on the Mountain. She is in some ways my future self who is living the fulfillment of my life’s dreams. In other ways she is the archetype of the woman who is fully at ease in the natural world and living her days in harmony with Mother Earth and all Her children.

I first met her through my shamanic journey work. I set the intention of meeting my future self who is living the most alive, fulfilled, peaceful and joyful life possible. As I let the drumming carry me, I found her sitting on a high mountain slope, resting in the midst of a morning walk. She had a huge smile on her face and radiated joy, love and contentment.

From my journal:  “She shared with me that she is not afraid of anything; especially nothing in nature. She knows every plant and their medicinal properties — every creature is a companion. She knows the trees so well that she could probably draw her nourishment right from the soil, as they do. And the Mountain and all the spirits of the Mountain love her and welcome her.

Since she journeys effortlessly, it does not matter what chair she might be sitting in or what bed she may be laying on. The room around her does not matter because she is most often in Panther Meadow with the healing ancient ones.”

Walking in nature and growing comfortable with my physical strength is part of the path from who I am to who she is. Seeing all beings as light enfolded in a sheath of earth, water, air and the flame of life, is another.

When I grow uncertain of how I will make the shift from recliner chair in a 3 bedroom house in the woods, to a folding chair outside an RV, I think of her. In spirit, she will be my guide.