Annapurna!

Whatever this man is–wanderer or evil monk, or saint or sorcerer–he seems touched by what Tibetans call the “crazy wisdom”: he is free. – Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard


Just as a white summer cloud, in harmony with heaven and earth freely floats in the blue sky from horizon to horizon following the breath of the atmosphere – in the same way the pilgrim abandons himself to the breath of the greater life that…leads him beyond the farthest horizons to an aim which is already present within him, though yet hidden from his sight. – Lama Govinda, The Way of the White Clouds, taken from The Snow Leopard

On day four of our trek up to Annapurna Base Camp, I pondered the point of a pilgrimage. I knew that Paulo, my brother, and I were on a pilgrimage to see this magnificent place referred to by all on the trail as “ABC,” but I did not know what we would find when we got there. It sort of bothered me; after all, why go on a pilgrimage if you do not understand the point of your journey. I looked into the eyes of the weary travelers coming towards us on the trail, the ones who had already made the journey to the high altitudes and snows of ABC, and wondered what they were thinking. In most of their eyes I saw nothing but weariness, exhaustion, and perhaps exasperation: exasperation with the distance they now had to travel back to civilization. It seemed to me that on many of their faces was painted the knowledge of how far they had yet to travel, and the intense desire that they were already there, and did not have to make the effort to walk these long and hot miles back to the nearest road. To me these people seemed unaffected by what they had seen, and I wondered if they were on a pilgrimage like I was, or if they were merely fulfilling the itinerary set out for them when they planned a trip to Nepal: when in Nepal you go trekking, and the most popular trek is to ABC.

But perhaps I am just being judgmental. Perhaps these people were just really tired. But there was a distinct counter-point to these blank and tired faces – there were those souls walking towards us who glowed with radiance, who were powered by an inner energy, despite the days of hard walking and fatigue. These people were affected, they had found what they were seeking and more in the hall of the mountain kings that we walked towards, but what was it they had found?

As I slowly plodded upwards to my own mantra-chanting rhythm, step by step up yet another interminable himalayan stone staircase, I wondered what my pilgrimage was all about. What was the point of this journey? I had flown half way around the world over the course of five days to land in Nepal. I had then traveled eight hours on a mini-bus to reach a village near the start of this walk, and had packed a backpack, written emails, withdrawn money, and scoured maps in preparation for this five day march to a place which is defined as being merely the base camp for expeditions wishing to tackle the real challenge – the famous and menacing mountain Annapurna which rises above. Don’t get me wrong, I will happily do all these things and much more just to enjoy a fine walk in the mountains, but this one was about much more than just seeing the sights. I could feel the hidden significance within myself, but it bothered me that I couldn’t put my finger on that internal meaning, the reason for sharing this march with all these countless fellow souls from every country in the world where people have enough income to travel to Nepal, as well as with my brother. And so I marched onwards, wondering…

what is Paulo looking for?

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Imagine

Chisapani sunrise… Everything they said it would be!

“Imagine all the people living for today… Imagine all the people living life in peace” – John Lennon, Imagine

Everyone knows the experience of having a song, melody, or beautifully sung lyrics inextricably linked to a moment in time within their brain, such that whenever they hear that song sweet memories of the past, pictures playing to a soundtrack in the consciousness, a warm-fuzzy feeling, well up from within to infuse the present. After a two-day trek and overnight stay in the small ridge-top village of Chisapani (“cool water” in Nepali) with my brother Paulo and our five new Nepali companions, the song Imagine, by John Lennon will be added to my memory’s soundtrack forever.

The boys, ranging in age from 18 to 23, had been showing us around their home of Kathmandu for the past two days, and inspired by the Nepali custom that they, “treat their visitors like gods,” were eager to please and protect us as they introduced us to their country and culture the best way that they could. They continually asked us what we wanted to do, and knowing nothing about our surroundings, we continually deferred, not wanting to try to control the experience. They knew that we were here to wander in the mountains, and so they planned for us this trek through the Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park to the idyllic little hamlet where they said we would be able to watch the sunrise over the himalayas and drink Nepali rice wine, or chyang. Some of the boys had been there before, but the other ones conceded that this eight mile journey was the farthest they had ever walked in their entire lives. It made for a fantastic combination of giddy “leaders” excited to show us their favorite place and local “tourists,” as out of their element as we were, although in an entirely different way.

L -> R: Aakash, Binnay, Mukash, Sujan, Sajal.

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Serendipity

Serendipity, besides being one of the sweetest-sounding words in the English language, is a sign of well-being, an endorsement of the path of choice. – Alberto Villoldo, “The Four Winds”


If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living… You begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and… doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. – Joseph Campbell

My brother Paulo and I have absolutely no doubt that we are on the Path.

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I realized that I was on the Path, or rather decided to get on the Path, but it probably happened a couple of weeks ago now. I guess that I would say that the moment came about somewhat organically, but has only gained momentum as things continue to conspire to show me that I am correctly following the signs. Its genesis was the melting within my brain of all sorts of “crazy” ideas gleaned from an equally eclectic group of sources. But I know that I am on the path because the serendipity and synchronicity of things tells me that it is so.

To sum it up, the path is letting go and willingly conspiring with the one love consciousness to manifest your own ideal destiny. It is not limiting yourself by any sort of beliefs, especially not negative. In fact, it involves never having a negative thought of any kind. It involves spinning anything around on its head to see only the potential positive, to empower yourself and your actions. It is realizing that you are not in any way in control, and being totally ok with that fact, accepting of it. It is being aware of the subtle nudges one way or another, and not judging them based upon pre-conceived notions or expectations. Somebody on the path will never close a door on an opportunity, lest that opportunity be lost forever just by saying no. It is holding in your mind your intentions of what you want and where you want to end up, or even just your intention of how you want to be and live, and then having faith that with simple belief you will dream it into being. It is choosing to see what the best possible outcome in any situation is, and then refusing to believe that anything else is what will actually transpire. It is knowing that you create your own reality. Your world is literally created by the way that you perceive the people, places, things, and events which take place around you. You have the ability to write your own story, and when you are on the path, you are writing that story, and the universe will help you along the way.

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Contemplating Bruce Lee and Destiny while Traversing the Boulder Skyline

“The stillness in stillness is not the real stillness; only when there is stillness in movement does the universal rhythm manifest.” – Bruce Lee

“Destiny is saying yes to the calling we’re born with; while fate is what happens when we fight or ignore our calling.”
– Alberto Villoldo

Green Mountain from the summit of Bear Peak

Ever since Randy Whorton, a friend who lives in Chattanooga but grew up in Boulder, told me about his favorite run I have been intent upon doing it. As he describes it you start at the South Mesa trailhead near Eldorado Springs, run over to and up Bear Peak, down the backside and over to the summit of Green Mountain, down the north side of Green and up Flagstaff Mountain, then down to Pioneer Park, over to the base of Mt. Sanitas, to the summit, then down the frontside and run along the front of the mountains, through Boulder and along the Mesa Trail, all the way back to where you started. It has been on my mind for a few weeks now and as I described it to a friend over beers while standing around waiting for a table at the Mountain Sun, the woman next to me overheard and said, “That’s a great one, I’ve always heard it described as the ‘Boulder Skyline.'” And so it is…

I set out alone to do this run on an unseasonably warm Sunday morning, my last in Colorado before the impending trip. The weather was great for deciding what to wear – I was comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt all day – but unfortunately wreaked havoc on the trail conditions, which were mostly ankle deep slush, mud, and standing puddles. It was laughable how silly it felt to be running through such slush, but within a couple miles it was obvious that taking any attitude but that of a little child would just make for a grumpy day. I spent most of the day just stomping through the muck and mud, ignoring the cold water I splashed all over myself, smiling all the way. At about mile three I tripped on a hidden rock and took a spill into a puddle, splashing mud all over my shirt and face, and the transformation to naughty, innocent child was complete.

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