walking sangha update 001
What happened between when I posted the walking sangha article and when I left on the trip beginning September 7, 2007.
For background, visit Walking Sangha.
This is a not-well-revised draft. I got myself out of San Diego. I'm at the Ventura Library. I may be away until the 30th of September, but I have no idea. I'll be walking towards the Sespe this evening, I expect.
Here's some related photos.
Basically, the big news this time is trying to go (more) ultralight. And also making a bit more progress on optimal nutrition thanks to Ray Jardine's Beyond Backpacking. I may write more about this process later. Suffice to say, I could have spent many more hours trying to get lighter and to have more nutritious food--but ultimately I needed to leave on the trip.
For reading: I took just the key from Botany in a Day, and just a key of sorts for mushrooms. And just chapter 8 from Transformations of Consciousness, "The stages of meditation in cross-cultural perspective" by Daniel P. Brown. And a paperback of The Varieties of Religious Experience by W. James.
If I disappear, places to look are (1) along the sespe, (2) along the piedra blanca national rec trail, and (3), along sulphur spring canyon north of lockwood valley road. If I walk to QS again, I may try to go in from the east, instead of walking along 33. I won't need to go through any of the closed areas.
- 9/7 to ? trip: Sespe Creek
- El Dorado / Tahoe Trip
- Feral Visions
- Post FV
- Post Trip
- Noos + We Develop
- Meditation and Striving
- Lack of We Development?
- Planning for adventure = Planning for life
- Optimal Nutrition
- Habit Review
- Body Review
- References / Bibliography / Works Cited
"If it's not written down, it never happened."
May you Learn from this as I've learned from Ray Jardine and Jenny.
9/7 to ? trip: Sespe Creek
I'm planning to return to the forest. This time, beginning and perhaps remaining along the Sespe Creek near Fillmore, CA, starting on Friday, September 7, and staying up to three weeks or however long I last out there.
Here are some links:
- Sespe Gorge on google
- Sespe Creek on google
- Sespe River on google
- Hike Sespe on google
- Kayak Sespe on google
By far the greatest discovery while on those google searches was the work of Charles E. Brennen:
- Sespe Creek
- Tar Creek
- Adventure Hikes and Canyoneering in the San Gabriels
- Dankat publishing page (Adventure Hikes and Canyoneering in Southern California, Adventure Hikes and Canyoneering in the Southwest)
Before I settled on this location--partly because I think there will be water there, Or if not there, then in a nearby pool a ranger told me about--I considered:
- Cleveland NF
- Sequoia NF
- Angeles NF
- Parque Nacional Sierra de San Pedro Mártir, in Baja, thanks to Graham Mackintosh. And, briefly, Anza-Borrego SP, and Joshua Tree NM.
I bought maps for the NF locations from the USFS Map Store, figured out public transit routes to trails, and contacted rangers about proposed hiking routes, fire restrictions, required permits, and water access. I bought topos for Angeles NF and for Los Padres NF. And a guide for the SoCal part of the PCT. And I consulted a page about water access on the PCT.
This trip was originally planned as a sort of Southern California followup of the Feral Visions 2007 gathering.
I got two replies from women who were interested, but after my reply to theirs, I did not hear from them again. I sort of agree. And while (or because) I fear it, I believe I may have more to learn from being out there alone for two to three weeks. Men, too, were interested and encouraging--but they were busy at that time.
I also read Beyond Backpacking by Ray Jardine, and read or skimmed almost everything on his website as well, and I modified an umbrella as he recommends.
A plus for this particular route is that it is in the forest I chose as home in the first Walking Sangha proposal, and I could walk to Quail Springs again. I've contacted QS and told them I'll be in the forest, and that I have no clue what I'll do there but I might walk their way. They're OK with a possible surprise visit.
Let me also record two lists for Southern California hikers:
- http://trailblazing.tribe.net/ - socal hiking
The rest I have to say has to do with how spiritual or personal development (my own, in particular,) relates to time spent in the forest.
El Dorado / Tahoe Trip
So here's what happened during my last trip:
I packed in half an hour (having been working to get an automatic watering system set up for the garden, and having procrastinated doing that. . .), and ran out the door. Food was white rice, green lentils, minute oats, dried squash seeds, salt, spices. Kombu seaweed. Reading was Sex, Ecology, Spirituality by Ken Wilber, Botany in a Day, and a thin book on western plants. I made it to Truckee by Greyhound the following evening. I camped out, eating uncooked oats (bad), seeds, then, the next morning, after seeing a bear, bussed & hitched to Fallen Leaf Lake in South Lake Tahoe. Past Echo Summit was my first camp. I added a chicken of the woods-like mushroom to my pot.
I began meditating again. I had gotten off my schedule the two or so days preceding departure. I did Kata, too, that second morning in the woods.
My second camp, on Friday night, was well before Carson Pass--before Showers Lake, I believe. There was snow up there.
At Carson Pass, over which wagons were once hauled, then and on my return, I appreciated how hard people had it moving around before cars, buses, highways, railways, airplanes--at least when they had stuff to carry and wanted to go far.
By Saturday night I arrived at Feral Visions. I had left so fast I had only my memory about how to get there, no printed or written directions. Along Blue Lakes Road, I stopped to rest and ponder the map. I heard breathing. A woman was biking by, going uphill. "Do you know where the anarchists are?" I asked. She turned her head but did not stop. . . "Go back, on the right." "How far?" "Not far at all." It was my left, her right, and not far, and I found my way there, reassured by her tire tracks in the dust.
There was a lot of uncertainty and fear this first part of the trip, combined with relaxing into it, with meditation, kata, long rests. . . could I make the hike? Could I find my route? What about permits? I didn't know permits were needed for one wilderness I would go through. . . Would I have the energy? Would I find the anarchists? Plus fire and flatworms-in-the-water fear. How would the community at the gathering be? All that, combined with focus on the present, breathing, and a letting go of these concerns. And the experience of routefinding off-trail where others rarely go and a lunch break in a beautiful, empty of people-seeming river valley.
The gathering I won't really speak of here due to the security culture emphasis of the anarchist scene. I don't really value that atmosphere and the fear and suspicion I find in myself in that atmosphere. But this was a good opportunity for like-minded community. My vision of what is possible in life is different because of who I met there and my experience of their ways of being.
I did learn of two other walking groups in the Pacific Northwest who live much of the time along the PCT. I also learned about akha.org.
What does it mean that there was fear and paranoia (depending on who you spoke to and when) there? What does it mean that it was shut down? I felt power in two of the few days we were together.
What does it mean that there are all these other gatherings. . . varied, but not wholly dissimilar (10000 ways, witchcamp, crimethinc, permaculture, burningman)?
So I walked south after only a few days in community. After leaving I had too much food that did not require cooking and ate too much, leading to some misery and to exhaustion I think. I made my way slowly, meditating, reading, taking rest days, to Ebbetts Pass. There, I decided not to go on, and headed back north to South Lake Tahoe (SLT). I was not super energetic, and was accepting that.
This time of total pathlessness, of total freedom, led to all sorts of wondering about "what next?". . . I even considered registering for classes in the fall.
In SLT, on a Friday, I found my Wilderness First Responder course was cancelled. Now I really had "no place to go and nothing to do" (part of a song about walking meditation). I made a reservation for the Amtrak the following Monday afternoon.
I spent Saturday and Sunday reading and not moving much. I wasn't meditating any more. My mind had not much left in it. I was reading about Sprit. I was realizing that the attraction of the Kata and meditation for me was that they helped free me from anxiety and its effects, such as the constant mind-running. But, as for a feeling of Spirit, of Theos, I was not finding that. I began to try to remember times I might have identified with Spirit, Theos.
My money from the course was refunded. I madly spent it all on books--books to carry on the next forest walk, I thought (in particular, Christopher Alexander's Nature of Order), and books on mushroom identification and cultivation.
At this point I did not want to carry my pack any more. The pack had problems. My right leg/hip had a nerve issue. The pack was heavy. After I returned, I rode a bike for a week to get around because I did not want to walk any more.
I returned, and some habits from the wilderness carried over for a bit of time.
At first, I kept a sort of Buddhist eating schedule--not eating dinner, at least with my grandparents. If I returned to QS, or was in other community situations, I thought I might help resolve some of my issues by not eating dinner with them.
One habit that has carried over until now is: not binging on nuts / seeds. I kept functional for 3 weeks in the forest mostly without eating lots of these. . . so I have no need to eat bags of them as I was before.
I also have not been eating one animal product per day, as I was before, more or less, for the same reason. Though just now, I have been eating Bob's Red Mill Sweet Dairy Whey. . . so scratch that. Instead I've been making a point of regularly eating rice, lentils, and kombu seaweed, as I was in the forest.
I also resisted returning to any of my old exercise, kata, and meditation routines, so these routines went out, and new ones are slowly forming or becoming spontaneous/when needed, rather than routine.
Noos + We Develop
Upon my return, and as I have noticed Ray Jardine mention too, there was a great mental hunger, or as I understand it, a hunger to explore the noosphere after having spent a lot of time focused on the biosphere (even though I was carrying a fat book around).
So I read/skimmed/listened to/began: Flatland, Psychocybernetics, Knowledge of Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, The Meditative Mind, Transformations of Consciousness, Spiritual Choices, and a lot about Holacracy. Holacracy pointed me to Seeing Systems, Leading Systems, requisite organization, Integral Leadership Review, The Berkana Institute, Integral Institute, and the interview with their new, wonderful-sounding CEO, Robb Smith.
I was able to implement some holacracy- and Sex, Ecology, Spirituality-inspired ideas (some had to do with agency and communion) in a challenge course program I designed for a large group. I felt power and success in doing this, and I had to wonder, is there not somewhere more personally and globally meaningful I can take this teambuilding, organizational development (OD)-type work?
I imagined starting an organization called "We Develop" for helping Wes of any nature (organization, family, couple, class) develop for free/donation--as long as that We appeared to hold values consistent with an earthcare ethic. But maybe it should be for any group, especially the non-earthcare-focused Wes. Then I began to plan the upcoming trip and forgot about that.
Ultimately, all organizational development/teambuilding/systems-type work is contributing to the development of one larger system or holon.
Ray Jardine's website and books help that system develop in a way I value.
My going off on this trip is modeling/testing out a way I think the system could go. But as I'm not sure yet, I'm not quite ready to have others along. I'm not sure what way I'm going--but I think more people could wonder like this, and then more new paths will be found. I have yet to develop lasting success really worth sharing.
Meditation and Striving
One reason I have quit (so far) the meditating an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening was that I decided I had an allergy to striving--an allergy to trying to be a certain way.
I decided, for now, not to go to the monastery--partly because of the money, but also because I felt I'd be striving.
I began to occasionally spontaneously meditate, without a time limit, and to watch where striving came in.
Last night, I found a striving I may be happy with.
I relaxed in the biosphere, the body, letting body concerns go.
I relaxed in the noosphere, marking the anxious and striving thoughts (such as the thoughts about composing this update) and leaving them.
And I began to strive for Theos, for Spirit.
To whatever came up to awareness, I could ask, "Is that Theos?" and mostly I knew right away, yes or no. (Hmm. . . and yet it all was.)
And when I did find Theos, what I understood as Spirit, or maybe more accurately as something approaching witness or ground, I tried/not-tried to stay there.
I know what relaxation and exploration in the body realm is like. I know what exploration and development in the mind realm is like. What is exploration in the spirit realm?
While I was doing all this, I saw that my book-buying spree, my writing of this, my excessive reading / noospheric work may be coming from a kind of fear.
My mind fears being out there in the forest alone. I have known I'm trying to stock up on ideas and experiences so I will have more to work with and ponder when I'm out there.
I fear not having my big, meaningful books to read (though I rarely get to reading them in the city, where there is so much else), and I fear having to carry the books in there.
So, could I go in there with nothing but a pack, and food, and perhaps a ton of water, and nothing more?
Could I sit there for much of the day and focus on Theos?
It seems I need to focus on Bios: exercises, relaxation, and optimal nutrition. I need to focus on Noos--perhaps by some reading, writing, and contemplation/composition of possibilites. Those having been done to some degree should let me sit in Theos.
And sitting in Theos + Noos + Bios, should also lead to a balanced amount of Acting in Spirit (not just sitting)--acting creatively, not reflexively or mindlessly.
I've been neglecting bios, my body, somewhat, and exhibiting a sort of noospheric cancer--an unhelpful hunger for mind-engagement, mind occupation.
This right here, writing, is a sort of noos/theos synthesis.
Lack of We Development?
Being in the forest alone neglects opportunity for we development, for development of self in relationship with others. But as I said before, being out there alone, or at least going there alone, seems to be a necessary prerequisite for that kind of development. I may need to understand myself alone in/with the land before understanding self+others+land. In any event, in the forest or not, I still haven't quite figured out how to live consistently well in my own body.
Wilber & Buddhists point out that meditation can help one develop greater interiority, or greater independence of one's contentness from events outside one's self (perhaps by developing an awareness that the event is not outside one's self?).
Ray Jardine has a lot to say on the subject of partnering, to which "[t]he key is to lend gentle encouragement while extending illimitable patience" (444).
Part of the issue may be is that there is so much I'm uncertain about. I am seeking a sort of total freedom to see what happens and to see what I do with it. If I ever develop some sort of regularity of what I do with that total freedom (Ray Jardine climbed and climbed, sailed and sailed, hiked and hiked, skydived repeatedly, paddled and paddled, rowed and rowed, skied and skied), maybe I could present a plan to others.
As it is now: you could come along if you would simply follow my whims? I'd like to think I would follow or share someone else's interests. But, as I remember on my return to SLT, I realized how hard it would be to coordinate with anyone else the movements I was making. The best I came up with was: I'll go to the forest and find a nice spot and read books and you're welcome to join me. As it is, I'm not sure where that spot is, whether I'll read books, and if I'll stay there.
I've also tried another approach: what kind of proposal could someone make to me that I would want to go along with? "We'll go to a spot in the forest, where we can prepare food, that has shade, access to water, and few biting insects, people, or buildings, and little engine noise. There, we can read books, meditate, and share exercises, or do something else that is fairly quiet." That might work. The only magic element missing is the possibility of seeing the people at Quail Springs.
The possibility that a woman could be my lone partner for a trip at this early stage. . . Well, I think it would work out if she ever showed up. It would work--but it does lead to wonder until we're both clear that we won't be lovers, and that we have non-sexual projects to work on together or separately. We might consider or practice botany, holacracy, we development, integral practice, yoga, dance, or singing or share what we're reading or exploring. But to continue with fear: I still sort of and sometimes desire lover-communion and care, and should I desire, my thoughts might be too much concerned with me-as-viewed-by-her. I might seek interaction with her more than would be helpful for either of us. I have a ways to go before being a human, who, as has been said of the Buddha, can view everyone always with not fear or desire but love.
I'm aware I could bring a pda/ebook-type device and some method of recharging it. Maybe someday I will figure that out. It looks like Ray Jardine already has.
Planning for adventure = Planning for life
So I see that planning for adventure is planning for life. Ray and Jenny in their planning for adventure and testing their plans developed a way of eating for life--their optimal nutrition.
My planning for my trip gets me to consider what things and practices I really need to value living for three weeks and beyond.
References / Bibliography / Works Cited
Jardine, Ray. Beyond Backpacking.