Backpacking and Yoga

Updated: Mar 27

I wrote this back in 2016 and have updated a few timelines throughout the story to make it more accurate to todays date. I wanted to share this piece of work as my first blog because it a foundational piece to my character development and my life story... As I write these words in the spring of 2021, I can see the beginning of a very therapeutic journey of self discovery through sharing my writing. That, as well as building a foundation for wellness and self-care for those people in my life. There is nothing more I want out of this life, than to share the things I have come to find most sacred. Yoga, Shamanism, Self-care, Self-work and Self-discovery... I look forward to sharing this journey with YOU!!! Be steady, my friends.

As the journier journies on his journey

He ventures through and through

Through thick and thin

Through high and low

The journier keeps on journying

Redundant, but simple. It still brings the memories of the trail flooding back. I wrote this poem after a camping trip some time around 8th grade and it still comes back to me. Quite often in fact. I can tell you what I meant when I wrote this, it was my attempt to relate life’s many obstacles of struggle and strife to be overcome with a balanced and steady mind. The journier symbolizes the observer, that place inside us that does not change and is infinite and eternal, the atman. It is that indomitable spirit that I learned about in martial arts. It is that guiding force that can turn life’s roadblocks into stepping stones. The journier is a symbol, a culmination of hard work and persistencey paying off. But not to the popular belief that there is a reward waiting ahead at some unforeseen finish line… No, the reward is in the now, it’s in the journey. These struggles are real, and they only add to the color of the story. It is up to you in how you tell it. Choose your path wisely.

I often think of Joseph Campbell and “The Hero’s Tale” as I have started writing my own story of self exploration and discovery. He made an interesting point that I feel has impacted the way I view the world and society. He points out that every story told, every culture, every tradition, every religion, every race, every continent has something in common with their documented stories of myth and lore. It is up to the reader of course, what they resonate with, but it is that everything outside of ourselves that we resonate with, is because we are reading our own story. We are the hero, we are the main character in this book. And here I am, sharing my story. And I am saying this to myself, as well as you, but that this is a reminder, that every time you speak, every time you decide to make a decision, it is being burned into the records of time as a part of your story. So tell it fresh and new every day. Every little bend and turn will make all the difference, so let’s allow the story to unfold one step at a time and we will inevitably turn our hurdles from road blocks in to stepping stones.

So tonight’s presentation, my plan is to make some connections between yoga and backpacking. The beauty of yoga, is that it really can be applied to just about anything and will prove to be beneficial after a persistent effort of application. I often reflect, that there is a lot of people who do yoga, without having ever consciously been doing yoga. The chef in the kitchen, completely immersed in the preparation of his masterpiece, making every little detail matter. The swimmer, focused on breath awareness and the deep sea diver too, consumyed by the moment. Sure, these people aren’t studying scriptures or practicing the eight limbs of Ashtanga, but there is something so simple that it is inherently our birthright to experience, it is that awareness of being completely one with the moment to moment and being conscious of it. That, my friends, is yoga.

I would like to get started by taking you through a guided visualization, so let us first find a comfortable posture, bring your awareness to your breath, and relax your bodies from head to toe. Then begin to sink, sink your mind’s awareness into a deep comfort of lush summer smells and fresh lake superior air. You are in the north woods, deep deep in the forest. A place where cell phone service is absent, almost non-existent. Your map and compass are the most valuable tools you possess. You know right where you are and where you are headed and you feel completely at one with it. Every breath, every step filled with purpose, your backpack and all. Every ounce you carry, you have thought long and hard whether it was worth carrying or not.

As you carry yourself deeper into the woods, you start to feel both connected to your environment, yet strangely detached from the life you left behind for a short while. It's a humbling feeling to be this far out away from a paved road, and as your distance from civilization grows, you are starting to feel the despair and longing for your comforts you have back at home. You take a breath and nature lures you in, comforting and caressing you. She tells you of her majestic beauty that you can only see by taking the time to reflect and appreciate it. Otherwise you miss it. In each breath, there is this magnitude of gratefulness. The impermanence of things. Nature sacrifices everything to share her beauty but she can just as quickly snatch it away from you in an instant... Nature will surely let you know that you are never really alone. But in order to feel her support, you have to first surrender into her caress.

The cool tingle of cedar in the air, the moistness of morning dew saturating your skin and clothes and the rushing sound of the river and the breeze in the trees. It is then in that moment, that you are completely one, nurtured in mother nature’s arms.

As you continue down the trail, the majesty fades, the clouds roll in and you are left with those heavy thoughts of all the things waiting for you back at home. This ominous weather you feel straight to your core… Those “job” things, those “relationship” things, those “financial things.” All those “things” that get in the way of your free flowing present moment. It is important to reflect on these things to gain clarity and sometimes taking a little time away to be in nature can bring out just what you were looking for. Just what you needed, and you might not have even known you were looking for it. You might not have even known that you felt this way. The trail lures you back in. You bring in some breath awareness as you journey on down the trail and life unfolds… one breath at a time.

Backpacking lead me to the meditation center. It’s true. I had already found yoga but I knew I wanted something more and I wasn’t getting it at Lifetime Fitness which is where my yoga journey started. It was at a critical turning point in my life and I was still very unsure of where I was going. I was literally obsessed with rock climbing at that time and I was working a job where I was traveling around the country building rock climbing walls. I know, it sounds too good to be true… It wasn’t. It sounds prestigious, I know. But trust me it wasn’t anything that special. The eloquence wore off pretty fast and soon, that job was no more than a job that was full of inconsistencies. It kept me away from home and everything I knew... But that was exactly what I needed at that time. I took the job thinking I would get to do a lot more rock climbing but ironically it wasn’t accessible. We were put up in hotels, we shared a single vehicle, we settled for shopping at gas stations and eating fast food all the time. The lifestyle wore on me and I knew after working this job for one year, I needed to get my life back and center myself. So at that time, I was in Newark, New Jersey and I had decided I was done with this job once we finished that project and after a little thinking and knowing I wanted to do some serious soul searching, something inside me clicked. It was yoga. I decided I wanted to do a yoga teacher training program. I didn’t know where it was going to take me but I knew that it would help me get back on course for the better part of the rest of my life.

I need to back up a few steps now, to fill in the pieces here. A few months prior to this life changing revelation, over the 4th of July weekend of 2012, I was in between jobs and waiting to get called out to the next job in Newark. I had time off so I did what any other outdoorsman would do. I hit the trail. The superior hiking trail. It, along with lake superior, is like a pilgrimage for me. A feeling of coming home.

I wasn't able to align my plans or ambitions for the weekend with any of my climber friends, so I hit the trail by myself. It wasn't unusual for me to seek solitude on the trail. It can be a very overwhelming experience to be distanced from cell phone service and the modern man. But to the initiated, there is great comfort in that feeling. I have always felt at home on the trail.