Wow wow wow wow wow... oh what magic a good adventure, good connections, and good rest can do for me!!
Our bodies, our minds, our spirits... they cannot be fooled. They know what they want, and when they get it, they react instinctively to let us know we're onto something :). For me, mine reacts in pronounced jubilation and genuine glee!!!
After a somewhat lackluster summer, my soul just got reignited by hanging off the side of Rucu Pichincha, a stratovolcano here in Ecuador :). It was an adrenaline-pumping, focus- frenzied, totally present, physically-draining, spirit-enlivening adventure!
Take a look:
Please excuse that it’s sometimes dizzying in fast forward mode!
The best clips are right around 2:00 and 4:15 if it’s too much to watch the whole thing :)
The day started at breakfast with my three roomies: French Canadians Mathieu and Marco, and Jillian from Philadelphia. We were all staying with a local Ecuadorian family, a ‘professional mother’ who has been taking in foreign students from the local spanish schools for over 30 YEARS!! She was a wonderful, sprightly woman, always offering you food and a big ol' smile:).
We four took a couple local buses, to a short walk up the hill to the TereferiQo, one of the highest gondola lift’s in the World. It takes you up the east side of Quito, itself already 9,350’ ASL, and drops you off at a mere 13,451’. Holyyyyy elevation. If you’re not up on your height data.... that’s as high as the tallest mountain in Utah. Dang. At that height and diminishing oxygen, even the slightest of hills causes shortness of breathe.
Riding up was a marvel already. It’s a worthy tourist attraction:). Quito is a huge city tucked down into a valley, surrounded by mountains and volcanos. It’s gorgeous. Upon arrival, we took the obligatory tourist photos, and started our hike at 11:11am. I made sure to point this out, and we all made a wish for each 1 :).
After an hour of slow and steady trekking, through phenomenal views and landscapes, we came across Wayne, a friendly expat who has lived in Ecuador about 10 years (retired there). He’s climbed this mountain at least 70 times, and was eager to give advice, for which I am so happy, because he’s the one who told us about the ‘alternate ridge route’.
He, originally for Leavenworth, WA (therefore a fellow rock climber) says, ‘when you get to the first set of rocks, if you go to the left you can scale the rocks and eventually get to the peak.’ To the right is the easy path he says. He points out there is a tricky part to the left, but if you are a rock climber, it’s not a problem, around a 5.3 (in rock climb talk that’s nothing).
We hike on, me at the very back of the four, my heart pounding! I’ve been upwards of 18,000’ a few times, but this is not something you get used to! I was a turtle, because it was hard but also because it was amazing. Every step up revealed something new... in the rocks/ fields/ flowers/ drop-offs around us, as well as a bigger glimpse of the city below. Amazing. After a lunch break, and more ooh’ing and ahh’ing, we arrived to referenced rock portion. Where, I might add, mountain bikers had carried their bikes up and were cruising from there alllllll the way down to Quito... a 5000’ descent. Rad! (planning my chance to get at that for sure!)
When we came to what vaguely looked like the split, I was quite a ways behind the others. They had gone to the right. It took only a moment to decide I wouldn’t follow. I yelled that I would go left and see them at the top. They yelled and asked if I was sure i wanted to go alone. No doubt! “Don’t worry", I yelled... "I’m a mountain goat” :) haha
And I was off. Best decision ever :)
That was around 1pm. From there on, DANG Wayne! Either he’s a professional exaggerator, or I went the wrong way, because 5.3 my ass!!! The next two hours of my life were pure heaven: meaning packed with adrenaline and giant cliffs and massive views and overcoming fear! A number of times I was totally free-soloing (which means rock climbing without ropes). The climbs were easy in terms of rock climbing, maybe like 5.5, 5.6 because the holds were excellent... but hanging on the edge of giant windy cliff drops without ropes makes one check and double check each hold!!! WEEEEEE!!!!!
I fucking LOVEDDDD IT (excuse my language;)! Good lord, I was sooooo high on life. When I got to the top of the first ridge I saw there were many peaks to go, meaning it was going to take me a lot longer than expected to get to the summit. I felt bad that my roomies might be worried or wait for me... but I couldn’t let that get to me because there was too much amazingness to be felt and nothing I could do about it then (plus I think they could tell I was quite the independent from our prior days chatter :).
It’s really incredible how pure and amazing my happiness is when I’m out in nature, especially when it’s freaking bomb-ass-ridiculously amazing nature :). Every cell in my body was alive and jumping and celebrating (despite not being able to breathe fully)!
For the last hour, I was climbing mostly in clouds. That happens at such heights :). At times there were amazing peeks of blue sky and getting to see the city below that I paused to take in, but at the same time it was also becoming freezing and my hands were getting immobile. Better hustle up because it looked like it could rain any moment.
When I finally got to the top, I yelled and yipped and was so stoked I’d made it!!!! I was giddy as all get out, making it easy to quick make friends with the only other person on top, a woman named Monica that had passed us during our lunch break earlier.
She took my picture for me, and a minute later both my phone and go-pro died. Always I feel a moment of sorrow, and then relief when that happens :).
Then something super wonderful happened, Monica and I bonded in a really remarkable way. We sat together in silence and just took it all in, then decided that my little spanish and her little english were perfect to practice together. We started to descend, down the “standard path” and I quickly realized that not only it wasn’t easy at all (the main hike itself is still a feat) but there would have been slim to ZERO chance I would have found the way without her.
She led me down what was more lie a ‘non’ path (because it’s all rocks at that height, so no real path). She has been to the summit 5 times in her life, and it’s always hard to find the way back, so this time, she had put little white chalk marks and arrows on strategic rocks. Smart woman!! With the clouds as they were, you could barely see 10’ in front of you. I kept blowing on my hands to warm them and she insisted I take one of her gloves. Awww :)
After about 10 minutes of navigating only by her marks, I realized she was my angel. She had been sitting at the top for quite a while, just sitting there taking it in. Interesting :). Our bond was fast and furious and we somehow managed to chat like were were long lost best friends. By the time we got down the deal was sealed, I love her! We took this ridiculous gondola photo, ate some traditional Ecuadorian food, and waited 45 mins to take the teleferiqo back down. We happened to be seated with 4 Columbian singers, who sang (I prefer to think they were serenading us) the whole way down with their amazing voices.
|Monica saved me for fun.. but also for real!|
The standard schedule at my homestay is dinner at seven. I was getting really nervous that they were going to be so worried that I wasn’t there. Nightfall had come, so we decided to take a taxi. We were both so tired on the drive home I put my head on her shoulder and she held my hand. It was so amazing. I bought two copies of the funny photo so we’d both have the memory together, and we each wrote letters to each other on the back. Both letters so full of love and gratitude for each other. What a fabulous connection, again without even perfect verbal connection (reminds me of my Italian gpa in Austria!).
I arrived home at 7:05pm :). Gained this crazy burst of energy to reconnect with all my roomies and swap experiences and how sorry I was if they had worried! Turns out they didn’t even make it to the top because of the cold and clouds so I was extra happy I had went my own way! Ahhhhhhhhhh, a most fabbbbbuuullooouuusss day!!!
Such is the amazingness of the mountain and the connection of souls. What a day, what an experience. I feel like I needed that day so much, and didn’t even realize it until it was there. Just this amazing reminder of doing what feeds you, and how powerful a good connection can be. That’s another thing my soul craves: real, honest, quality connections. Where open emotions, soulful conversation, high vulnerability, and non-judgmental communication lead to that fabulous intuitive surety that you’ve met an incredible person.
Monica and I have since exchanged other endearing emails. Turns out she needed that day in her life as I much as I had. Fate I call that :).
The next morning I was ablaze with joyfulness. I went to church with Olga, mi madre Ecuadoriana, and then hit the old town with a new roomie, Hannas from German. We explored el centro historico for a wonderful couple hours. This feels like my regular mojo. I broke down and finally bought myself some new shoes. It was sad to say goodbye to the awesome old ones :)
Then it was off to my ashram. OH MY GOSH. I took the local buses (an hour worth of travel for .55 cents!) and arrived at a little past 4. I met Daniela and Satya, two instructors-- beautiful souls. They showed me my room and I was delighted beyond delight to unpack and know I would be there for a month without having to pack again!!!!
I explored the grounds and just had this wonnndderful feeling of YES YES YES. It took me back to my other ashram experiences. It’s so amazing how a place can give a vibe, an amazingly welcoming and peaceful and home vibe :). The Bloom Woods shall have this vibe :)
|My room! So bright :)|
|The outside wall and balcony|
|Balcony view :)|
|Mi casa from the outside|
|Hammock time :)|
At 6:30pm I went to help prepare dinner. The others were starting to arrive, and it became quite clear I was the only 1st language english speaker. My spanish really must be better than I’ve given myself credit because the entire dinner and all the chatting that happens at any introductory meeting/party was in spanish! By the end of this month... man, mi espanol va a estar bien (is going to be good)!!!! YAY!!
Then we went down for our introductory meditation session. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, is all I can say. Home. Peace. Love. Powerful. Energy. Beauty. Patience. :)
There were 9 of us. We went around first and introduced ourselves and a bit about ourselves. Very personal and significant talk. It was all in spanish and I wasn’t able to understand everything. I started to weep silently. When it was my turn I was so open and honest and just admitted that I was feeling a bit sad because I knew I was missing some beautiful vulnerability, and that I was the only one who would need translations and was feeling bad/guilty/pressure about that. But the other reason for the tears, that struck me in the most wonderful way, making me soooo happy, was that one of my irritating qualities could very likely be solved here:
I have a terrible habit of listening to someone’s story, but hearing some trigger that starts me to think about what I’m going to say next, before they are actually done talking. Only one ear still listening :(. I’ve been trying very hard to break this habit, but it’s somehow deep engrained and not as easy as it should be or as i want it to be to shake. What I realized sitting around and listening to the spanish testimonies, was that when the others are speaking in another language, if I stopped concentrating intently on what they were saying for even a moment, I would miss it.
Wow, what an opportunity I have here then! To practice my spanish so deeply, that it also makes me a better listener and person :). Ahhhh wonderful.
As I cried and expressed myself, the love and sensitivity in the room was as grand as grand can be. It’s not a problem, they say. They will translate everything just to make sure i have it, and it’s a good way for the others to practice their english anyways. This was already the way it was supposed to be (all our correspondence was in english, as is their website... it just so happens that this time I am the only one :). It's a wonderful moment of love and acknowledgement from everyone.
Then we do this aaammmmaaazinngggg meditation dance. We pull the energy from the ground and from the womb up to our hearts and out to the world. We push it forward, to the side, and to the back. Its about an hour of just breathing and dancing this simple dance, but it is soooo powerful for me. Pushing love forward to those I haven’t met yet, pushing it to the side, those with me now, and pushing it to the back, for those from my past. I am overwhelmed with so much love and peace in my soul. Ahhh I loveee my hippy free-spirit side :)
|One of my beautiful teachers, Satya :)|
We come together into a circle and engage in all sorts of positions to connect ourselves, hands, legs, massages. It finishes with child’s pose, and then it’s time for bed. I can only just say thank you from the bottom of my heart for such an amazing introductory session and evening.
This last week has been wonderful. I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. Doing rad things doesn’t matter if you are doing them out of sync with your soul. A good indicator for me was the sudden burning desire I had to write again this week!!! All summer I felt I should write, but the tiny small moments of time I had, there was no inspiration. Instead I took to drinking and eating crap and seducing my way across America. Soooo much fun, but so unfulfilling in the long run.
The week here is very busy being relaxed ;). We have hours upon hours of slow tantric yoga and meditation and theory. My wonderful new friends here invited me for all sorts of events and suggestions for our free weekend, but all I wanted to do was stay in and write
(and rest my brain from spanish for a bit)!! ahhhh, I am so happy with my view and my warm tea and getting my thoughts onto paper again :).
(and rest my brain from spanish for a bit)!! ahhhh, I am so happy with my view and my warm tea and getting my thoughts onto paper again :).
Certainly I love excitement, but that ingredient alone isn’t enough. This summer highlighted that for me. I had adventure! I had challenge! I had experience upon experience. I had insight, I had change, I had growth. I loooovvveeee this summer for that. I learned soooo much. But I didn’t have peace and I didn’t have sufficient rejuvenation time and I didn’t have authenticity :(. I was the leader, I was supposed to know it all. Do it all. Be it all. I was supposed to know every answers and have all the plans set. There are plenty of leaders out there that can do this perfectly... but not me! I love uturns too much :).
Ironically, I still want to guide tours, but in a very different manner. ‘Facilitate a journey’ seems more appropriate :). More about that later, but the most valuable thing I took away from this summer, is that I prefer not to be the “leader”, but the student. Don’t get me wrong, I’m highly aware that every person, place, thing, or animal can teach us something. I am always a student, no matter what role.
The difference in what I’m saying is that my hobbies, my spark of life, comes from learning, experiencing, changing, growing. And for this, I like to be surrounded by those that inspire me, push me, teach me, challenge me: physically, mentally, spiritually, intellectually.
I have taken a liking to asking people if they prefer to be be the best student, strongest athlete, highest ranked professional, fastest runner, etc... or if they like to have someone ‘better’ around (or at least equivalent) someone that pushes them, motivates them. A simple hike is a good example and analogy for many situations. Often when unmatched physical (emotional/intellectual/spiritual) talents exist, there is a pressure with one or the other. As the slower one, some people will not like it, feeling like they are holding the other one back. Others, in my case me, love to be the slower one because it makes me want to work harder, get better, thank them and be impressed by the work they have done already to get so good. When I am the best, I feel the need to slow down and make sure I am not making the other feel inferior, and that doesn’t do much for either of us.
There will never be a ‘done’ for me. There is always room for improvement.
The manifestation of that for me is the Bloom Woods. Not so I can have a place to showcase myself, but rather to create a space where amazing human beings will want to come and live and work, so I can be surrounded by them:). Where we can share our knowledge and skills and talents without pressure or resentment. There we can then bring in others who want to be inspired, who will appreciate and take advantage of such knowledge and wisdom and not covet it, or be jealous of it, or find ways to break down the successes of others. And where we can push ourselves to amazing physical limits!