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.

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.