it’s been more than a year and half since i’ve participated in my first vision quest. undoubtedly, one of the more brave things i did not because it physically scare me to go into the desert whilst on a fast and without any shelter or distractions. i’ve done enough meditation retreats where solitude and silent was cherished by my soul. only in hindsight did i understand why it was a brave thing to stare into my original wound and coms to terms with it in very visceral and conscious manner. meanwhile, 10 other strangers came to share their stories. the stories stirred my well of compassion violently. It was such a precious week to witness the power of vulnerability to connect our lost souls. even now, the pain and joy of this experience remains fresh in my heart and soul. even though i have lost connection with most of these people, i am grateful for the chance to have done a portrait of them in the desert. it’s such a rare privilege to photograph humans in these states of vulnerability and intimacy.
it’s been 7 days since i’ve entered my first hard core mantra/visualization retreat at pema osel ling. for the most part, it is a bit over my head and in my typical style, i created my own schedule and work the format of the retreat as much as i can handle. in hindsight, the learning experience is i should take a few shorter mantra style retreats here and next time, do a shorter duration of the drupchen retreat. still, at least uma is having a wonderful time and it’s really nice to be around other parents that have a pretty strong practice. undoubtedly, i know from this experience that i want to continue to deepen the meditation practice as i complete my first year of consistent daily mediation practice. what that deepening on a regular basis is not clear except the obvious of more time on a daily basis to the practice. potentially, next year it will continue to be about consistently and total hours meditate through the next year. anyway, i going to try to make this summer retreat a tradition with uma. meanwhile, i hope the romantic seeds i planted here grow but i have been better at realizing the shortcomings of my romantic patterns. the free spirited artist with a spiritual under current. I just haven’t found a way for me to reconcile that free spirit with my own rigid desire for a ‘equal’ partnership. in some regard, there is a strong desire to let go of that romantic attachment naturally and just focus on service but even in that framework, i am struggling with finding my strength/time for the service aspect. without growing the spiritual/service framework, the romantic habits will continue to haunt me.
it was only in 2011 that i did my first half marathon in oakland. i remember recently being turn on to the barefoot style of running and i was running the half in my vibram five fingers. For the first couple years after moving to the east bay, my running practice was mostly on the road and definitely more a form of exercise to manage stress. So, when i look back at this past weekend after completing my longest one day race, i mused at the slow progress i’ve made in the last 6 years. a part of me wants me to plateau at this level and not push myself to do the 50M Ultra. It’s been wonderful to push my zone of comfort and do longer distances but the time commitment and the addiction to that style of progress is bearing on me. I don’t have to prove anything anymore to anyone, especially myself. My intention was to train well enough so i can do long runs in national parks and see wonderful scenes beyond a day’s hike. So, i am there now and it’s time to just run to explore and take photos. I just need to figure out what the photo story is about as it’s the photos are just pretty images at this point.
i had this grand vision that i was going to kayak, run and bike ride in the mountains this long weekend. uma’s cold caught up to me and as i am leaving the bay area, i am sneezing and coughing my way into higher elevation. i get here around 10am, find that most of the sites are taken and drive deeper into the mountain to find something suitable just for tonight. by the time, i am all settle down and ready for a cold beer night cap. Finally, at that moment, when i am looking at the stars and feel the chill and hear the wind, i tell myself it was worth it. this trip pretty much wraps up an incredible summer of the most outdoor i have ever been in in a year. i’ve enjoyed the outdoors in so many contexts and this weekend of doing really nothing was just fine. sure, i did a few hikes to a lake or two and vistas were pretty regular too but the most part i barely sweated. i even sleep twice in the hammock looking up at the trees and smelling the forest around me and laughing as bingo numbers were spoken over a speakerphone. sure i wanted solitude in the forest but the bingo name and kids being loud didn’t bother me a bit. then tonight i sat on the world renown vista point watch the sunset over the mountains. the idea that this was the area where i should get land really just sunk in while i enjoy that moment. for the past couple years, i have been thinking about buying some land outside the bay area and be close to more trees/mountains/trails/lakes. it is precisely at the sierra foothills that all of these elements come together. it’s probably going to be like a 5 year plan but it’s coming together.
in my typical fashion, i didn’t think too much about the implication of signing up for 120 mile race at high elevation when in reality i was wholly unprepared for such a physical feat. As I spoke to other participants on how they prepare for the adventure, my suspicion was confirmed that I was mostly out of my league. Which is not to say that there weren’t other less prepared racers and when compared to them, i would have done fine. of course in hindsight, i did pretty good considering how little i train. pretty good meaning i was able to finish all the stages within a pretty reasonable amount of time without being super injured or wiped out. Also considering how sore I was from the SF Marathon a week prior to the race, i didn’t come into the race believing that i could be ‘successful’ in just a rigoius physical feat. still, i can’t say that i didn’t wholly believe in myself as i view the challenge as mostly a mental grit exercise and i was mostly correct in that assumption. physically, i may not have been as well train but i felt that mentally I ‘should’ be able to complete the challenge. for the most part. the scenario played out naturally and there were many moments that my mental toughness overcame my physical weakness.
i love these types of challenges and as i get older/more successful, they come more rare in my daily experience. previously, life just threw these mental/character challenges at you and nowadays, i have to seek it out. not to suggest that my life is so easy these days but the daily challenges are fairly minor and doesn’t build much character for the most part. intense challenges that consume your mind/body for short periods of time have a much more powerful impression on your character psyche. which is to say, after an experience such as this, my confident level went up considerably. the question becomes how will i apply that new level of confident. it’s been tempting to keep using this confident in the same channel but i am not sure that’s how i want to apply it. I think it’s fairly easy for me to fall into the idea of upping my running game into longer races and etc. Not that it’s a super bad thing as the health benefits are awesome, there’s just so much on my plate that i want to do and all preparing for ultra distances requires more time commitment than i am prepare to give at this point. for now, i suspect i will continue to do a few more races this year to close out a great year of running but not sure what the future holds.