Monday, May 31, 2010

I'm currently in the process of doing a book review for Elephant Journal ( on Buddhist teacher Andrew Holecek's new book called "The Power and the Pain- Transforming Spiritual Hardship Into Joy."

A few years ago, I took a seven week course on death and dying taught by Holecek that profoundly impacted my life and transformed my paradigm. An acute awareness of impermanence has followed me since taking that class during which we visited mortuaries, viewed embalming instruments and crematoriums, and attended an anatomy lab with six corpses, both male and female, dissected in different ways to show distinct parts of the human body. This view of the ephemeral nature of life, rather than creating despondency or morbidity in my mindset, has allowed me to greater appreciate fleeting beauty, to forgive more easily, and to love more unconditionally.

In Holecek's new book, he discusses the obstacles and difficulties that accompany the spiritual path. While I was reading this morning on my couch with a cup of steaming green tea, I learned that 250,000 people die everyday. Struck by the immensity of this figure, I texted a friend to inform him of this fact. He texted back, "And I could be one of them." As obvious as that seems, his observation hit me in the heart and made that number personal- when I was just reading it in a book, those 250,000 people who are going to die today seemed somehow removed from me. Realizing that any one of the multitude of people I know and love could be part of that equation reminded me of the uncertainty of life and how precious this human existence is.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

on a spring day in boulder...

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end to all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. "

-T.S. Eliot

"We have to be willing to come apart at the seams, to be dismantled, to let our old ego structures fall apart before we can begin to embody sparks of the essential perfection at the core of our nature." -John Welwood

Friday, May 21, 2010

Birthdays and Belays at Shelf Road

For my 25th birthday last weekend, three girls and three dogs packed into a tiny car with all of our climbing gear and drove down to an area in southern Colorado called Shelf Road. The weather was hot and sunny but cool in the shade, making for perfect climbing weather on the extensive vertical limestone cliffs.

This was my first all-female climbing trip and it was a very different experience- the dynamic was much more relaxed yet I felt inspired to try much harder and take some bigger falls. We all suffered from some mysterious, villainous pollen that was causing us horrendous allergies, but despite all the sniffing, sneezing, and nose-blowing, the trip was a great success.

Many climbs were climbed in the heat of the sun, many beers were drunk under the crescent moon, and we returned home with sore fingers, already planning our next trip back to Shelf.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What birds plunge through is not the intimate space
in which you see all forms intensified.
(Out in the Open, you would be denied
your self, would disappear into that vastness.)

Space reaches from us and construes the world:
to know a tree, in its true element,
throw inner space around it, from that pure
abundance in you. Surround it with restraint.
It has no limits. Not till it is held
in your renouncing is it truly there.

-Rainer Maria Rilke

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Abundant sun, luminous water, and ever-blossoming flowers- Guatemala is a place of endless enjoyment for a nature lover such as myself.

As the days passed I grew to love the slow-paced hum of the place...

...even when the occasional scorpion would fall out of my pant-leg while I was peeing.

Recently though, I woke up to the resounding early morning birdsong of San Pedro and had a strong intuition of some vague sensation. I sat up in bed, watched the auroral sun filter through the heavy foliage outside my window, and tried to get a firmer grasp on this message that was being delivered to my conscious mind. Suddenly, it hit me- it was time to go home.

I received this news with a fair amount of disbelief, yet despite my hesitation, the message seemed clear- get home as soon as you can. When I told my traveling companions, they too distrusted this and tried to convince me to stay a few more weeks with them in Guatemala. While their persuasions sounded seductive, I really couldn't argue with myself and told them sadly that I was going to go.

Two days later, I was in the notoriously dangerous Guatemala City, squeezing myself into tightly packed buses and enduring the frenzied swerves of highway taxi drivers. As the day progressed, so did a piercing pain in my abdomen. I vehemently ignored this growing discomfort and focused on not getting robbed as I made my way to the dingy airport.

After a drawn out day of flying and increasing stomach cramps, my plane was hovering over a dark and drizzly Denver. Storm clouds consumed the sky and turbulence rocked the plane. Unable to land because of a massive thunderstorm, the captain informed us that we would have to fly off course to avoid the "unfriendly skies." I squirmed in my seat, observing my impatience rise with my level of pain.

Eventually, the skies cleared and we landed safely. I made it home in one piece, dropped my bags near the door, and took the first hot shower I had had in over a month. Luxury. By the time I made it into bed, I could hardly stand due to the waves of pain that were flooding my body. I reminded myself of one particularly bad case of food poisoning I had while in Thailand three years ago, and told myself that this possibly couldn't get worse than that. I was wrong.

The next day, I made a deal with myself that I would give my immune system 24 hours to fight this off before even thinking of going to the doctor. Later that afternoon, after spending hours moaning and sweating while racked with pain, I called my doctor's office to inquire about some very concerning symptoms I was having (I'll spare you the details- they were grim and gory). At first she told me the doctor was booked all day and couldn't see me, but as soon as I told her my symptoms, she paused dramatically and said, "How quickly can you get to urgent care?" I was ordered to come in as soon as I possibly could, without even stopping to check in with the receptionist. I decided to interpret the nurse's rather fervent reaction to mean that maybe, just maybe, I should really go see the doctor.

After seeing the concerned physician and receiving several prescriptions, I was sent to the lab to have a few tests done. Still hunched over with pain, I grimaced when the nurse explained to me, in a voice loud enough for the the whole waiting room to hear, just exactly how I was supposed to collect a stool sample. Everyone in the room looked up to see what unfortunate person had to poop in a cup. Yup, I nodded to the room, that's me.

Thanks to my intuition to come home, as well as the wonders of antibiotics, I had recovered enough after a few days to sojourn to the desert of Utah to a climbing area called Indian Creek- some of the best crack-climbing in the world.

Camp fires...

crag dogs...

and stunning stark cliffs stretching out into the vast expanse of space.

After several days of bleeding hands and torn skin, we went to a climbing area called Mill Creek in the La Sal mountains in the distance. It was a wonderful way to be welcomed home.

Now that I'm back, I'll keep this blog updated with photos from my various misadventures (I plan on doing quite a bit of traveling this summer) and ART!! Check out my latest- I've been experimenting using watercolor along with my usual pen and ink style. You can click on the image for a closer view, and click again to see detail. Thanks so much to everyone who has been keeping up with this blog- please continue to do so! Love!!