I used a point-and-shoot camera for the longest time, and still do. But when I got frustrated by its limitations, a cherished friend offered me a higher-end camera from his personal collection. In doing so, he opened for me the gates to a whole new world. There’s no way I can adequately express my gratitude for Peter Laird’s generous gift, but I'd like to give it a try.
By its very definition, “photography” is “to write or draw with light.” I'm one who's drawn to light, as a rule, and I tend to notice things other people don't. But my new camera invites me to look even closer. I'm learning to twist the lens just so, in a way that brings near the things I might otherwise have overlooked: sharp edges and rounded corners, bold patterns and rough textures, saturated and sun-bleached colors.
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
It's a messy thing, this bearing witness.
Megan McCarver, to consider teaming up with me on something entirely different—a fun challenge for both of us, each in our own way.I’ve done lots of event planning in my day. I've given speeches to large audiences, led seminars in closet-sized classrooms. But during a brainstorming session at Mother’s Market one day, I asked my long-time yoga instructor,
Megan said yes! Over the next few months, we explored several areas of mutual interest—yoga and writing, art and photography—and linked them a common theme. We reserved space at a Tibetan retreat facility in Soquel, California, and then we reached out to others: "Please join us for a weekend of Mindfulness and Imagination…"
Word spread, and our reserved spots went fast! People joined us from as far away as New York and Texas, and from cities all over California. Twenty people, all told. And no wonder—nestled into the mountains and surrounded by giant redwoods, Land of Medicine Buddha is at once peaceful and transformative. It’s an ideal spot in which to meet kindred spirits, and to explore new possibilities.
Beginners unfurled their mats alongside long-time practitioners. Megan encouraged us to become aware of our comfort levels, to stretch the boundaries of our self-imposed limitations as we moved through a sequence of yoga poses. “Focus on the breath,” she said, “Let it give you an opening.”
We hiked in the forest, ears attuned to the peaceful sounds of nature. Leaves fluttered in the cool morning breeze. Bees hummed in the afternoon sun. Birds sang lullabies to their hatchlings, tucked safe in their nests, and an owl called out, “Whooo? Who goes there?”
Prayer flags in a stand of redwoods
During silent meditation, we listened to own inner voices. That carried over into our Creative Art Journaling Workshop, where we explored new ways of translating our thoughts into words and images.
Creative art journal and inspiration
We faced our doubts, banished our inner critics. And with hearts wide open, we poured ourselves onto the page.
Margaret Avritt facilitates a writing session
The kitchen staff nourished us with delicious vegetarian meals, prepared in a way that promotes ethical practices and eco-sustainability. After an especially yummy lunch on Saturday, Stace Dumoski took us on a photography walk. "Taking pictures is very much like getting the first draft ideas down on the page," she said. “You won't really know what you have until you review the pictures later, so just focus on the experience for now. See what happens when you change your perspective. Use your zoom lens, switch positions. Tilt your head or turn your camera.”
Stace Dumoski pauses for a brief orientation on our photography walk
On Saturday evening, Venerable Nordzin spoke with us about compassion, as seen through the lens of Buddhist teachings. She spoke openly about the challenges that come of recognizing our own inner light, much less sharing it with others. “Soften your gaze,” she said. “Greet one another –your own selves—with kindness.”
Venerable Nordzin and Megan McCarver
Tears of gratitude, joyful smiles—I witnessed both at the prayer wheel when we said our final goodbyes. We swapped email addresses and phone numbers, packed our belongings, and carried with us a treasure-trove of shared memories. And…on the way home, this happy couple got engaged!
Lori Nobel and Keith Spielman at Carmel Beach
The feedback from our retreat was at once heart-warming and affirming. Given the popularity of this event, Megan and I are pleased to announce two additional retreats at Land of Medicine Buddha!
Candles in the Window: Earthhoney Chocolates) is bringing special treats for all of us, and–drum roll, please–author Jeannine Atkins is our featured presenter!! More information to follow, here and on Facebook, but if you have any questions/want to be added to our email list, just drop me a note. It’s going to be an amazing experience, and you won’t want to miss it! A Yoga and Writing Retreat (with chocolate), June 6-8, 2014. This one’s my baby. As with the 2013 retreat, we’ll enjoy creative art journaling, yoga, photography walks, writing sessions, nature hikes, etc. Lynae Palmer (aka "Lusty Chocolate Shaman," of
Megan will host a retreat during the weekend of April 4-6, 2014. Her theme is in the works, so stay tuned! In the meantime, please mark those dates on your calendars.
As I watch the news coming out of Japan this morning, I’m overcome with a great and terrible awe. The magnitude of this devastation is unspeakable, the personal tragedies unimaginable. I feel as if I’m witnessing something more powerful than I’ve ever observed–something with broader implications than I could ever see, given my limited vantage point.
Mother Nature’s speaking volumes, isn’t she? She’s been whispering warnings for a long while now, but now she’s using her Outside Voice. With that kind of wakeup call, how can you help but listen?
I find myself at a loss for words, wholly unable to express the magnitide of my concerns, nor the depths of my sorrow. Maybe that’s all for the best. For aside from opening our hearts (and wallets), this seems a good time to sit quietly, in prayerful meditation.
Being in nature helps to calm the everyday thinking mind, with its restless concerns and perennial planning. Likewise, the body feels more at ease outdoors, and the heart begins to open to and resonate with the peace, silence, and stillness of the natural world. –From Awake in the Wild, by Mark Coleman
I can’t begin to recount all the treasures I brought home with me from Land of Medicine Buddha, but here’s a handful of gems from my vast collection: hiking among the giant redwoods…savoring a late-night concert in a fresh-mown meadow…
howling coyotes roosters crowing…swapping secrets with special friends…reveling in the sounds of silence…seeking clarity beneath the fog-shrouded moon and stars…turning upside-down and inside-out in yoga sessions…sensing Oneness…and always, always coming back to the breath.
Somewhere, somebody once said, “It is the I behind the eye that sees.” So true, and I admit in humbleness that my own field of vision is limited. Nevertheless, I hope these pictures reveal in some small way the magnificence of this past weekend.
I’m leaving today for a yoga retreat in the Land of Medicine Buddha–gonna shed the cares of the world and get my Om on.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to extend my yoga practice in such a gorgeous setting. Beyond the obvious pampering, I find deeper, more spiritual reasons for doing yoga:
[Yoga] means ‘union’ and that the practice of yoga unites body, breath, and mind, lower and higher energy centers and, ultimately self and God, or higher Self. But more broadly, yoga directs our attention to the unity or oneness that underlies our fragmented experiences and equally fragmented world. (Yoga Journal, May/June 1984, p. 4)
Interpreting yoga as a gathering place—it’s a very cool concept, don’t you think? Plus, I’m meeting up with long-time friends. In between our yoga and meditation sessions, we’ll catch up with each other on long hikes among the redwoods. Nirvana!
Namaste, my friends. I’ll be happy to see you again next week.