Friday, August 23, 2013

California Wilderness: Here and Now

The California Wilderness program was lucky enough to have one international student! A novice to backpacking and newcomer to California, Ye Eun (trail name: Sweet Sap) writes about engaging with the beauty of nature, learning about herself, and appreciating her Sierra Institute group:

In this program, I experienced what I could not have imagined. California was so beautiful that I could not help falling love with it. All nature such as trees, the river, the lake, rocks, and stars were breathtaking. In nature, I could enjoy it as home, a friend and a teacher.

The last and longest leg was in the White Mountains. At 10,000 feet, we had solo time for three days. Since I have never been solo for even one day, I was nervous. I was a beginner in backpacking, but soon I was used to it. I knew how to pack well and could enjoy beautiful trails even with a heavy backpack. During the solo time, I hiked up hills or explored around. Most of all, I had a lot of time to think about myself, time I never would have had if I were in the front country. I realized that I had been weak, but pretended I was fine. I am just a human-being who cannot live without other people. This whole six-week trip and three-day solo time enabled me to grow, both physically and mentally.

One more thing of my precious memories of Sierra Institute is our group, Here and Now. We each had a different personality but when we were together, we were in harmony. They were so cheerful, generous, and considerate. I learned from them about how we can respect each other and how we can take care of the nature. Sharing a passion for nature, all understood how important it is and appreciated how beautiful it is. As we shared about our lives, experiences and feelings, I was able to experience a group talking with open hearts. Here and Now became a treasure to me.

Writing this is simply not enough to explain what I felt during the trip and what I’m feeling now. Thanks a lot to California Wilderness, and to Here and Now.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

California Wilderness: Homecoming

Talia Bakker (trail name: Ripple) writes about her journey, and how her definition of Home has changed, in the White Mountains and beyond:

The White Mountains  satiate a deep longing for home. This six-week trip, though we have been moving non-stop, has in fact been an extended homecoming. Throughout my life I have docked at many harbors, and inevitably set sail once again when the seas call me. When our group of adventurers  departed from the harbor of Santa Cruz, I charted a course without knowing the destination. Relying only upon the provisions I was in possession of, I sailed straight out into the open sea. As I was rocked about by the waves crashing upon the prow of my ship, my sails held fast with the support of classmates. Throughout all hardships of the trip and with each  incursion into the wilderness, I have found that there is more to myself than I could have dreamed.

Now end of our trip, I sit next to the sun-dappled creek and there is a great feeling of belonging, of aliveness. I have spent my whole life thinking I knew where I wanted to go, and put out so much effort to fight the elements in getting there-- carving course through the waters, struggling to stay on track despite vicious racking winds, only to find when I arrive that it is not what I was looking for.

This last journey has allowed room for new eyes, another glace at the stars and the waters reflecting them down below. Home: I have been looking for it within achievements, never noticing that home has been with me wherever I go. I believe now that it cannot be reached by fighting the elements and charting courses; home is to be found in the journey to those things. This is why the White Mountains holds so much more than just wilderness. The mountains are part of the adventure, part of the home, part of those who love it. It is part of me; my journey has led me here and I exist within my journey. Now I will travel back to civilization ecstatic to experience new things, and old things in a new ways.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

California Wilderness: Let Nature be the Teacher

As his six-week California Wilderness program draws to a close, Roman Leynov shared what he has learned, and how nature has changed him for the better:

I write this from Tres Plumas Meadow in the White Mountains, as a pleasant breeze offsets the afternoon heat. The wind carries with it the minty-earthy aroma of sage brush and makes the Aspen tree leaves undulate, creating waves of light and dark green across the landscape.

As the six-week program enters its final stage, I reflect fondly on what I have learned. I, along with the other eight students in the group, have learned and taken to heart the importance of preserving and sustaining the natural world as we read the works of learned authors and roughed it in the outdoors. But the most valuable aspect of this trip has been the coming together of diverse people to the extent that we have become like a family, helping each other out and holding spirited debates during class.

Participating in the Sierra Institute has helped me gain a new perspective on a variety of personal issues such that I have changed for the better, and I am not the only one who has benefited thus. The saying “Let nature be the teacher” rings true, as nature has, in its own way, inspired our group to see life through a new, more positive lens.


Friday, August 9, 2013

California Wilderness: The Gift of Being

Henry Schrandt (trail name: Wild Heart) writes about the Domelands and feeling home in the wild:
This leg of the trip was remarkable in so many ways. I felt like I got to fully experience the core aspects of the Sierra Institute. Our group embarked to a region of the Sierras known as the Domelands. I have never seen that much granite in my entire life. 

The entire trip consisted of extreme weather patterns, from blistering heat to electric thunder storms. I came to love these unpredictable weather patterns. We read poetry underneath boulders that gave us shelter from the pouring rain. It made me feel like I was home. There was an excitement in being in the storm; the air was charged with energy from the white-hot lightning that struck earth in the distance.

I have gained a lot from this trip. The tone set by my peers and the surrounding habitat has given me insight into my inner wilderness. My heart has been in need of healing and reassessment, and for six days out in the back country I managed to be content with the current challenges of my world. All I can say is that my Sierra Institute tribe and the spirit-filled wilderness gave me the gift of being.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

California Wilderness: Pure Self-Compassion

Jameson Hubbs (trail name: Coyote) shares how his experience in the wilderness has changed his relationship to self:
It's fascinating to shiver and sweat in the same day. From cloudless desert heat waves to relentless thunderstorms, the weather of the Domelands expresses the spontaneity, the intensity, the sheer spectacle of California. In our temporary homeland, nestled on a desert river between stony mountain ridges, my own intuition becomes impossible to ignore. My outer environment is as still as the beaver-dammed creek; my inner wilderness becomes simply irrepressible. 

Decade-old insecurities buried in my subconscious resurface as my ego is drained of external stimulation, an inevitable healing process unique to the backcountry. My normal craze of the intensities of bohemian UCSC life is absent in the inward journey as the Domelands quiet my external cravings. 

Here, I just be. I be with my true self, my natural environment, and be with my psychological vulnerabilities instead of being consumed by thoughts. Pure self-compassion. Fears of inner weakness, poor decision making, and the issues of the 21st century surface in my mind, but I learn to listen and release. Some of these insecurities would previously spiral me into depression, but I now master the art of knowing that I am more than the thoughts that fly through my head. It's interesting how I must let go in order to grow. As William Everson- whose esoteric poems we read throughout this trip- puts it, "it is the ancient paradox: you have to lose your life in order to gain it."

This life I've gained throughout the journey of the inner-wilderness is best described by Joseph Campbell's idea to follow your bliss. My intuition grows enormously and ecstatic experiences present themselves more and more as I continue to let go of the ego. To name a few:
-Impulsively going on a solo hike to watch a mountain sunrise with deep-violet skies, rainbows, and distant lightning flashes complemented by the song of coyotes
-Climbing high up the stone mountain peaks with a few other friends
-Starting a moonlit drum circle dance party on our festival day

While sad thoughts of the imminent end of my experience with my amazing Sierra Institute tribe continually resurface, negative emotions decrease more and more as I proceed to master the art of being my self, here, and now. This practice is the greatest gift I will ever receive, and is the infinite value I'm getting from this experience.