A Story Shared by Sean Buranahiran

One day a young boy asked his father, “What is the value of his life?”

Instead of answering the father told his son to take this rock and go sell it at a market.

If anybody asks the price, raise two fingers and don’t say anything. The boy then went to the market and a women asked, “How much is this rock. I want to put it in my garden.” The boy didn’t say anything and raised up two fingers, and the women said, “Two dollars? I’ll take it.”

And the boy went home and told his father, “A women wants to buy this rock for two dollars. “The father said, “Son, I want you to take this rock to a museum. If anybody wants to buy it, don’t say a word and just put up two fingers.”

The boy then went to the museum and a man wanted to buy the rock. The boy didn’t say a word and put up two fingers. And the man said, “$200? I’ll take it.”

The boy was shocked and went running home. “Father, a man wants to buy this rock for $200. His father than said, “The last place I want you to take this rock is to a precious stone store. Show it to the owner and don’t say a word. And if he asks the price just put up two fingers.”

The son then went to a precious stone store and he showed the rock to the owner. “Where did you find this stone? It is one of the most rarest stones in the world. I must have it! How much would you sell it for?”

The boy put up two fingers.

And the man said, “I’ll take it for $200,000.”

The boy, not knowing what to say, ran home to his father. “Father, there’s a man that wants to buy this stone for $200,000.”

His father said, “Son, do you know the value of your life now? You see, it doesn’t matter where you come from, where you were born, the color of your skin, or how much money you were born into. It matters where you decide to place yourself, the people you surround yourself with, and how you choose to carry yourself.”

You may have lived your life thinking you were a $2 stone. You may have lived your whole life surrounded by people who saw your worth as only $2. But everybody has a diamond inside of them. And we can choose to surround ourself with people who see our value and see the diamond inside of us. We can choose to put ourself in a market or put ourself in a precious stone store. And you can choose to see the value in other people. You can help other people see the diamond inside of themselves. Choose the people you surround yourself with wisely. That can make all the difference in your life.

You can choose to be around people who see you as $2, or you can choose to be around people who see you as $200,000.

And some people… will see you as priceless.

I wish you all the best. I love you all.

 

 

Babamanji’s Time to Remember

It had been a long week and Babamanji had lost his way. He felt separated. Amongst friends and family, he felt a little lost. Yes, everyone saw his outward smile, but somehow his thoughts wandered to past memories and he lost his presence.

He decided to spend the evening sitting under some trees and gazing at the constellations. There, he always felt at home. There, he always felt safe. There, he knew he would begin again to find his way and recognize from deep within the true nature of what was going on… and find his natural rhythm with the world again.

As first, as he gazed to the sky, the constellations were not visible. As he consciously slowed his breath down to access a place of inner peace, he started to feel content. He started to see that the constellations were obscured by clouds. He reflected on his ability to at least see the clouds.

As he looked to the eastern sky, he saw the constellation Ganesha, and he was reminded that many of the obstacles that we face in life come from our own thoughts and judgments, our own ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, and our own self-created feelings of separation. In every moment, there is a new opportunity to walk beyond these obstacles and across the threshold to see your higher self and to feel more connected with your true nature. In every challenge, there is a new opportunity to gain knowledge. Things started to get clearer.

As he looked to the northern sky, he saw the constellation Shiva, and he was reminded that life is indeed cycles of transformation, and that it was necessary sometimes for him to lose his way in order to express his true nature again more fully. He was reminded that the practice of yoga would help him find his way and help him embrace his life more fully. As he practiced some meditative yoga, he started to access the knowledge held deep within his subconscious mind – deep within his physical body. He started to access his natural compassionate emotional body. His gaze became more aware. He marveled at the wonder of the sky.

As he looked to the southern sky, he saw the constellation Hanuman… and his heart melted. For a moment or two, the clear image of Hanuman right in front of him took his breath away. He saw himself in the stars. His own light began to shine again. He wondered if he had lost his way because he was not being himself and letting his own light shine, or if it was because of the others who did not see his light? He wondered about all of the judgments people make of others and wondered if people put down in others what they fear in themselves. He wondered about his own ego, his own attachment to how he thought things should be, his own refusal to see truths, or his own fear of living authentically. Of course, these thoughts just seemed to melt away as he let go and settled wholeheartedly into his own feelings of unconditional love and devotion to a more sacred perspective of the world. Being immersed in nature always helped him do that. He felt the warm support of Mother Earth below him. He was reminded that we all come from the same place, that we are all living our lives together.

He started to see the constellation Lakshmi in the background, and he was reminded to embrace life fully, to feel the abundance of nature, and to express beauty and every aspect of his life. It became so clear to him that our bodies are indeed evolved to be happy and to build supportive relationships with one another. Our true nature is really quite remarkable.

By this time, it almost felt like his mind itself was becoming transparent as the evening sky became clearer and clearer. His mind felt still. His body felt at peace. His feelings of love and openness emanated from deep within.

He was humbled by his growing feelings of responsibility and empowerment.

He was humbled by the beauty which surrounded him in all directions – each tree enriching the earth with its own light. Each hillside reflecting iridescent light and vibrant beauty. With a glance northward, he saw his own responsibilities in these infinitely-connected reflections.

As he looked to the western sky, he saw the constellation Saraswati. And he was reminded to just let go and flow with nature, to just be his best self through a sense of moving with grace, gratitude, and openness to whatever comes his way… and to learn to express himself more fully by using his voice. It is time to play music, to read poetry, to sing, to spread joy… and to do his work with vigor.

By this time, as he looked directly overhead, all of the constellations were dancing together. Their light lit up the sky and filled Babamanji’s heart. His soul rested in the peace of the moment. His spirit soared with the stars.

In the background, he wondered if he even saw the constellations of Buddha, Jesus, and Kokopelli… and the images of his father, uncle, and other ancestors. He thought he heard them reminding him of his path… a path that he has naturally always walked… a path that inspires healthy work, self-reflection, and a yielding to the ideal of our interconnected nature.

And then, it was time to walk forward again, with intention, with integrity, with wholeheartedness, and with the wisdom gained from a time to remember.

Role Reflections

Today, would have been my father’s 91st birthday. This blog is a tribute to him and my other mentors.

Last week, I celebrated my half-birthday in my 60th year and my 20th wedding anniversary.

I thought I’d reflect back on my many roles in my first 59-1/2 years, and write the first thought that comes to mind about what I’ve learned from each role:

SON: Integrity, Kindness and Unconditional Love;

HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: Independence; Being Different is Okay;

COLLEGE STUDENT: Perseverance; Have Faith in the Future;

RESEARCH ASSISTANT: Scientific Analysis and Technical Writing;

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Understanding Forces;

HOME DESIGNER: Creativity; Seeing Synergistic Solutions; Understanding Relationships;

LANDSCAPE and GRAPHICS DESIGNER: Artistic Expression;

SKI and SNOWBOARD INSTRUCTOR: Understanding Movement; Understanding Different Ways to Learn;

BUSINESS MANAGER: Leadership, Vision and Teamwork;

OUTDOOR EDUCATOR: Facilitating Groups;

SCHOOL TEACHER: Communication, Empathy, and Being Open to Learning in Each Experience;

TRAINER: Dedication – You Become What You Practice;

ENDURANCE CYCLING: Strong-Heartedness; Mind and Body Work Together as One; You Can Get to Where You Want to Go – There’ll always be Hills and Valleys;

COACH: See the Gift in Each Individual; Motivation

MOUNTAIN BIKE GUIDE: Understand Risk vs Reward, Holding On vs Letting Go;

BACK COUNTRY GUIDE: Be Prepared;

ADVENTURER: Adventure Learning is Life-Learning;

WRITER: Clarity and Truth; Clear-Heartedness;

SKIER and SNOWBOARDER: Freedom; Bliss; Being at One with Nature in the Moment;

ADAPTIVE SPORTS VOLUNTEER: Acceptance; Empowerment; Selfless Service;

ATHLETE and BODY BUILDER: Power Comes from the Inside, Expressing Yourself Authentically and Fully; Maintaining Long-Term Perspective;

YOGA PRACTITIONER: Embody Your Life’s Higher Purpose; Everything is Connected and Interdependent; Love is The Way;

MUSIC-LOVER and ASPIRING MUSICIAN: Humility; Respect; The Flow of Life;

HEALER: Intuition, Loving-Kindness, and Open-Heartedness;

HUSBAND: Devotion, Full-Heartedness, and Partnership;

STEP-FATHER: Be There for Others at All Times;

MENTOR: Be There for Others at All Times;

FRIEND: Be There for Others at All Times;

ROLES THAT AREN’T IN LINE WITH LIFE’S HIGHER PURPOSE: Get out;

ROLES THAT ARE IN LINE WITH LIFE’S HIGHER PURPOSE: Give it YOUR BEST!

Hmmm… That’s It For Now! Stay Tuned…

(Photo by Ali Kaukas)

The Guest House

When learning to live a life of learning, I am reminded that each experience that I have, each person that I meet, and each feeling that I embrace are my teachers – my guides. Some show me the way to go, some show me the way not to go. Each is here to help me see my way more clearly – if I pay attention.

I am reminded of this Rumi poem:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

(Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi (Born 1207); Translation by Coleman Barks)

CHAPTER FOUR: What I’m Supposed to Do

The first 19 years of my life was the first chapter: growing up in a safe, friendly neighborhood in Burnt Hills, New York; figuring out who I was and what I was supposed to do; being a student, a good student; being a son, a good son. It was during those summers that I played a lot of baseball, spent mornings and many afternoons swimming at the community pool, and gazing at the stars at night. I learned to ski – and started to teach skiing when I was 16 and my basketball coach told me I’d have to decide between basketball and skiing. I started riding my bicycle wherever I wanted to go around town. I graduated from high school in the top ten of my class, being recognized for exemplary citizenship. On the outside, I was a good guy – quiet, kind and respectful. On the inside, I felt different, alone. I was indeed ridiculed for being too nice. I wasn’t into crowds or parties. I didn’t smoke, drink alcohol or try drugs. I felt relaxed when I was outside in nature, usually skiing down snowy hillsides at Hickory Ski Center or camping in the Adirondacks with my father. I decided to pursue my academic talents in math, science, and art, and pursue college education in engineering and architecture.

The second 19-year chapter was focused on my pursuit of a successful professional career in engineering and architecture. Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, summa cum laude, Union College – graduating first in class amongst engineering majors, third in class overall. Master of Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – publishing technical papers and receiving awards for work as a research assistant on snow loads on buildings. I began my career in Saratoga Springs, NY, as a design engineer on architectural and engineering projects before being hired by Ryan-Biggs Associates in Troy, NY. Here, I spent the balance of my second chapter progressing from design engineer to project engineer to project manager to company partner. I managed the structural work for new hospitals and college buildings and commercial buildings and schools and parking structures. I oversaw the renovation of numerous older and historic buildings. I became the President of the upstate chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. And I became the leader of culture-changing internal programs within my company to improve teamwork, quality of services, and sustainable design practices. I developed and mentored an excellent team of young consulting engineers.

During this second chapter, I also became a full-certified ski instructor and began a long career in the snowsports industry. I progressed from ski instructor to ski school director at Hickory Ski Center, 11 years. I taught one season at Pico before moving over to Mount Snow in Vermont. I would continue to teach at Mount Snow for the balance of this chapter – my professional life was relatively stable: engineering work most of the time, teaching skiing during winter weekends.

I got married… and divorced… during this chapter.

I designed and built a geothermal-heated home on a hilltop.

It was also during this second chapter that I became an endurance bicyclist. I rode my bike one day close to 200 miles from my home in New York to the coast of Massachusetts. And I made the same trip a couple more times expanding the route further into Vermont and New Hampshire. I competed in a half-dozen Olympic-distance triathlons, many of them in the Bud Light Triathlon series, and competed in an ultra-marathon 24-hour cycling time trial.

I finally took a real vacation near the end of this chapter in 1992 and rode my bicycle around the south island of New Zealand. Here, my spirit for adventure was born. A couple years later, I decided to take a leave-of-absence from my engineering company and enrolled in a National Outdoor Leadership School program in Outdoor Education in the Cascade Mountains of Washington. I knew there was something more that I was supposed to do.

Chapter Three, the next 19 years, began during this year away from my engineering career. I had been focused on a career that started when I decided in high school that I wanted to help people through the solving of society’s environmental and building development issues, but I realized then that my career had evolved years down the road detached from these original visions. The NOLS trip reconnected me with the Earth and the stars and my natural Self, with the satisfaction of working closely with a team of like-minded, outdoor-oriented people, and with my desire to lead an adventurous and learning-focused life. It was at this same time that I met Jo and her two kids, Alex (8) and Natalie (4). Together with my NOLS experience, meeting Jo, Alex and Natalie changed my life. I moved to Vermont. I was no longer alone. I felt connected. I felt at home. I found yoga.

My professional career during these 19 years took a back seat to the demands of being a husband and a step-father. I pursued work on my own as a consulting engineer and timber-frame home designer. I successfully designed dozens and dozens of beautiful timber-framed homes. I called my business Gaia Structures. I received an advanced certificate in sustainable design from the Boston Architectural College during the inaugural years of the green building movement. I also moved between roles as a regional ski clinician, a ski school manager, an adaptive sports coach and trainer, a ski school director and a manager of other mountain sports services, and a middle-high school teacher! I designed ground-breaking facilities for new learn-to ski and ride programs. I developed innovative strengths-based teaching programs and wellness-focused therapeutic recreation programs. I worked at Mount Snow, Bromley, Stratton, Snowbird UT, and the Adaptive Sports Foundation in Windham NY. I coordinated programs for the Wounded Warrior Project and co-founded Warriors Live On. I found my passion in working with those struggling through the symptoms of post-traumatic stress and leading outdoor wellness programs, being a mentor and a coach and a teacher. But, it all happened during this chapter without any planning or foresight. I learned to let go of the way I had thought my life should be, and started to trust in walking through the doors that opened. I learned to pay attention to what matters… being kind, loving, and wholehearted… again.

Of course, this third chapter evolved only because of the deep struggles we faced as a family, enduring ourselves through the symptoms of post-traumatic stress and the difficulties of negotiating our way through seriously-dark and deeply-private times. I moved from one career priority to another often without real explanation based on our family needs, our survival. But I eventually learned to have faith in a higher power, a higher Self, and a more natural way of living. New doors always opened when I paid attention. The gift of the darkness was the light that was eventually shining more brightly from within. We just had to seek it and see it. The practice of yoga became our vehicle. And all of those previous years of dedicated work and worldly vision, beginning with the youthful years of parental love, support, and safe community, had prepared me for this Chapter Three. Through this chapter, without pre-planning or goal-setting, I became deeply aware of the Oneness in present-moment life and of the connections with previous-time experiences, ancestry and history. And I started to feel again my nature to be kind, to be nice, and to be loving. I learned that indeed, there was something more that I was supposed to do… and in many respects, I had already been doing it… all along.

So, a couple of years ago, I started to immerse myself in yoga. As a teacher and as a learner. As a coach and as a practitioner. Letting go of previous identities, challenges and accomplishments. Letting go of being attached to future expectations. I am living more and more as my natural Self, the Self I have always been, finding ways to live in this world in a way that matters to me, my family, my community, and this Earth. Finding ways to be of service, quietly and respectfully. Finding ways to express my devotion to the idea of Oneness, being wholehearted, and being compassionate and loving. Being open to the idea of expressing the true me… the me I am really supposed to be.

With deep gratitude for each of my previous 19-year chapters, I am learning to let them go. I am learning to see (and coach) new perspectives.

I am now beginning to write my Chapter Four… one day at a time.

Call me Babaman?

Sometimes, you have life-changing experiences. Sometimes, you don’t recognize the impact of those experiences until years later. Sometimes, you are immediately conscious of the magnitude of the experience as it happens.

Long ago, I didn’t realize the gift of going through personal traumatic experiences until years later. The experiences of head injuries, post-traumatic stress, and navigating family health-related setbacks opened pathways that at the time seemed so distant and unthinkable. I also didn’t also realize the long-term gift of training myself to endure hardship through long-distance bike rides and endurance races.

Whereas, I realized immediately that the heartfelt connection I felt with nature when I spent a month in the backcountry with a dozen other adventurers during a National Outdoor Leadership School expedition in the Washington Cascades in 1996 would be life-changing.

And last week, I also immediately realized that the heartfelt, joyful community experience of last week’s Bhakti Immersion in New Orleans with Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band would be life-changing.

Immediately, I felt my heart open. Was it the music? Was it the group of like-minded, open-hearted, non-judgmental people who had gathered? Was it New Orleans? Was it Sean’s warm-hearted demeanor or his joyful spirit or maybe his storytelling? Was it the opportunity to use my voice and sing again?

Immediately, I felt connected. The lines of separation between people, things, experiences – past and present, seemed to vanish. I went to my nature-place, my place where I feel a natural oneness. Within a couple of days, I wrote this:

The whisper of the winds calls my name;

The arms of the trees embrace my soul;

The heart of the earth calls me home;

The light of the sky guides my way.

Who am I to question my path?

Who are they that guide my way?

I am always here.

My home is the wind, the tree, the earth, the sky.

I am the wind, the tree, the earth, the sky;

I am the breath, the body, the heart, the light.

You don’t have to look to find me!

I am here. I am here.

I am home. I am Om.

Sean asked me to include my name in the poem. I couldn’t! How could I separate myself from nature with a simple name? I am who I am because of everyone in my life, past and present. My name (Bob) is my father’s name (Bob) and my uncle’s name (Bob) and my father-in-law’s name (Bob). Or, near Boston my name is Baaab. My name is often said as one name with my wife’s name (BobN’Jo). I thought of all of the people who put their hand on my back and let me know that they had my back. And, all of the people who rested their hand on my shoulder and let me know that everything would be okay – it was okay to just be me! I am who I am because of all of these people.

I thought of Hanuman, who I’ve written about before. According to myth (as I understand it), when asked by Ram who he was, he said (deha bhavena dasosmi) that when he takes on the identity of his body (as an individual separate from God), he is devoted to God (or a higher power, if you will) with a full and open heart. This is the Bhakti yoga path. When he takes on the identity of a wanderer or a seeker (jiva bhavena twadamshakaha), he’s part of God. When he identifies with oneness or pure consciousness (atma bhavena twamevaham), he is God, the universe, infinity – when the interdependence of all things is realized. Was I identifying this quickly at this Immersion in New Orleans with this sense of the oneness and interdependence? I was feeling totally connected by love with everyone around me, silently but openly. In a palpable way, these moments where life-changing for me.

So, knowing that memories of the mind fade and that the mind usually creates new stories to explain reality as it happens in real time, I thought I’d get a tattoo to remind me of the feelings that I was feeling.

This shoulder tattoo will remind me daily of those who have supported me in my life on Earth by putting a hand on my shoulder and letting me know it was okay to be me. And to remind me that:

Our super-human powers come from our heartfelt devotion to a higher power and a sacred purpose;

Through our natural and holistic expressions of both our male and female aspects, we learn to evolve, transform and blossom through the light and the dark periods of our lives;

We honor our teachers, gurus, mentors, elders, spirit guides and ancestors;

We remain grounded to the earth while ready to serve humbly and selflessly, moving mountains for the benefit of our family, friends, community, Earth and all of life;

With our open hearts, and with compassion and kindness, we have power over our monkey-brains – we expose our true nature to be playful, joyful and loving!

Maybe now, I’ll call myself Babaman! What do you think?

Happy 88th Birthday, Mom!

Yesterday, I had lunch with my mother, celebrating her 88th birthday two days early. Our conversation ranged back to her birthday memories of 75 years ago, December 7, 1941. Of course, that day, two days before her 13th birthday, the world changed. She spoke about how her family all gathered around the the radio and listened to President Roosevelt. That day would set a pathway for their lives as part of the greatest generation.

She spoke about how her future husband, my father, had delivered milk to her family that morning. I asked, “On a Sunday?” Yes, the Speck boys were up seven mornings a week, milking cows and delivering raw milk to homes in Rockport and Gloucester, MA. My dad often spoke about how he saw mom’s birthday gift – a bicycle – on the porch as he delivered the milk that morning before my mom received it from her dad

Back at the Speck farm, the family gathered around the radio also. In attendance was Chief Harold Tantaquidgeon, great-great-great grandson of Uncas, and a family friend. He was also working on the farm. Tantaquidgeon and the Speck boys would soon enlist. It would lead my father eventually on a path that included military service, college education in physics and nuclear engineering, and almost four decades of work for General Electric as a contractor for the US Navy building reactors for ships and submarines.

My mom also spoke of my grandmother, my dad’s mother, a proponent of natural foods and nutrition, who would travel to Boston on the train to learn from Gayelord Hauser. I hadn’t heard of him, but I soon found out why I saw my grandmother as years ahead of her time, and how I was influenced at a young age to eat well.

As we spoke of these years, and how the Speck farm eventually stopped functioning with the young men off to war and with the advent of pasteurization (Nana Speck would have nothing to do with taking the goodness out of the milk!), I soon realized that this all had only happened about 16 years before I was born. World War II had always seemed so long ago… but it was only a matter of decades before that these folks had lived through a depression and a world war.

And it was only a decade or so before that that my mom’s parents immigrated via ship from Scotland. My mom’s father and uncles had fought in World War I as part of the British Army and Black Watch.

Mom and Dad would settle in Saratoga County, NY, where I was raised, where Uncas had befriended early English settlers, where Tantaquidgeon had attended the premier of the original film Last of the Mohecans in 1935, where my dad would volunteer as a school board member for almost four decades, and where we had lunch yesterday.

At 88, my mother still lives by herself in our family home, feeling at home in this place with such a rich history and with so many wonderful memories… all from not-so-long ago.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Yoga and Skiing at Snowbird

That moment…

When you see the beauty of majestic granite mountains,

When you smell the fresh scents of tall pine forests,

When you touch the softness of sun-drenched powder snow,

When you hear the songs of awakening Spring life,

And you feel the exhilaration of your body flowing freely with gravity…

Is when you know you have found bliss –

And when you know you have arrived at Snowbird!

 

There is something about Snowbird that makes my spirit soar! Ever since I first arrived over 30 years ago, I keep going back. Maybe it’s just the feeling of being connected to the natural beauty of the mountains. Maybe it’s the deep connection I feel with the Earth. Probably, it has something to do with an acute awareness of feeling my life as it’s supposed to be… free and flowing and joyful.

I brought my family there. I taught skiing and riding there. I almost moved there.

So why lead workshops that combine the practice of yoga and the experience of skiing and riding at Snowbird?

Yoga heightens our sense of presence, our feelings of connection, and our awareness of what’s going on. When combined with the present-moment exhilaration of flowing down challenging mountainsides with beauty and like-spirited friends all around to support you, the possibilities are endless. All of your senses feel peace and become positively-energized at the same time!

And awe-inspiring experiences are meant to be shared.

For me, as a yoga teacher, a ski and snowboard instructor, and a personal coach, it is a heavenly way to bring smiles to faces and to help people feel something wonderful!

In April of 2017, we will welcome our Heart of the Village Yoga community to a one-week yoga and ski trip at Snowbird! Join us. You will know when you have arrived!

Spring is in the Air at Snowbird

The Wind Blows Through Me

Forty years ago, intent on solving the challenges of a growing society, I decided to pursue a career of civil engineering. Civil engineering soon morphed into structural engineering, which in turn morphed into architectural engineering and design.

Twenty years ago, I wrote the following article which was published in Healing Options in Spring, 1997. Now, after twenty years of letting go of the engineering career identity, I feel like I’m just now setting out again on the path intended for me, the path I felt so deeply when I wrote this article.

Sitting among the Manti-La Sal Mountains in Utah, 1996.

Sitting among the Manti-La Sal Mountains in Utah, 1996.

Tonight, I’m sitting on top of a mountain. The burning orange image of a rising full moon paints the sky purple as the blues of the sky get deeper and deeper. The long tail of a far-off comet starts to glow in the northwest skies. Stars start to twinkle above as house lights begin to twinkle below. I sit. I listen. I hear the whisper of the air as it moves through the branches of the trees nearby. They creek gently as they move in harmony. I listen some more. The whisper gets deeper, more like a deep hum or howl coming from far away and far above. I feel it move against my skin. I smell its fresh scents. I breathe deeply. The air blows through me. It seems to give me life and energy.

I start to move onward across the mountain top. But it’s almost as if I’m in a dream. My body is moving, lightly and easily, but my mind is elsewhere. It’s still on top of the mountain in a trance recapturing the spirit of the wind just felt. I’m reminded of similar experiences running on the beach or snorkeling in the ocean, hiking through deep green forests or biking across open fields. I’m reminded of similar sounds and feelings. I’m reminded of how the wind moves differently – sometimes with vigor, sometimes with gentleness – but it always moves. And it always makes sounds. I feel alive. I feel like I’m real. Everything seems to come together. Yet I keep dreaming…

For years I’ve worked primarily indoors performing a job that kept my mind challenged and my sense of accomplishment fulfilled. But there is something about being indoors that is stifling to me – like being stagnant and detached from what is really important. Inside, the wind is still. I sought the outdoors in my free time and continued to do what I supposed to do indoors. As a matter of fact, I still do – now and then!

For years I’ve studied and designed buildings, structures which give people protection from the wind and the elements of the outdoors. Some of these buildings were constructed with the sole purpose of helping people find peace and happiness. Homes, churches, and meeting places. That makes me feel good. But there is something about being outdoors which can’t be recreated inside a building. You need to experience it outdoors. Outside, the wind blows. It comes from far away and it connects through you.

It seems like years of thought and miles of travel, but I’m off of the mountain and back to my car. The moon is high in the sky and the stars are bright. My little story ends here. I must now go home to sleep, inside, hoping and dreaming that the wind will continue to blow through me…

 

 

Leading with Heart

Recently, someone asked me about my leadership principles. Words like vision, integrity, responsibility, and discipline rolled off my lips. Showing up with authenticity and presence, with a strong sense of inner knowing and mutual respect. Acting in a right manner, consistent in thoughts, words, and behaviors.

Of course, the archetype of leadership is the warrior. And last week, I spent 4 days hiking in the White Mountains along the 20-mile Presidential Traverse with 3 other warriors. (We started with 4 other warriors, but one was brave enough to say that the trip wasn’t for him. He became our base support.) Including our base support warrior, three were combat veterans; one was an amputee (and Paralympic alpine skier). I was the organizer and perceived leader.

Only one hiker other than me had mountain hiking experience. One was from the US Virgin Islands; not accustomed to sub-70 weather… They all knew me; only a couple knew each other before this week.

On our second day, after an initial first-day 4-mile steep climb towards the ridge line, four of us set out into the rain and clouds, temperatures around 50 degrees-F, and sustained winds of over 30 mph. Soon, at the ridge, we endured gusts over 55 mph. The way was rocky and wet. 7 miles.

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It soon became very apparent that we were all leaders. We took turns in front. We took turns caring for each other. We easily became a close-knit group. There were no issues with where we were going. There were no issues as we adapted to options we faced. The tenants of leadership organically materialized, strengthened, and flowed naturally from us, individually and as a unit.

We’d later roll into the AMC Lake-of-the-Clouds Hut and people asked us who we were. We seemed so comfortable with one another, like brothers. People noticed; they felt our presence.

Upon reflection, we knew that we were not just warriors, enduring the hardships of our experience with determination and fortitude; we were also healers – we were relating to each other from our hearts, indeed as brothers. We discussed the relationship – the balancing act – between our warrior and healer instincts. We discussed the special relationship we shared with each other and with our natural surroundings. We became immersed in the bond of friendship and our connection with the natural world around us. It seemed like the power of our group was well beyond the power of four individuals.

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In yoga, we become aware that, as individuals,we are on a self-realization journey discovering our own true nature. We utilize teachings from the Patanjali-Sutra that help guide us in our interactions: learning to live lives of non-violence (ahimsa), making ourselves more sensitive to the ways we often do subtle violence with our minds and our bodies to ourselves and to others; and learning to be authentic and truthful (satya), ennobling our own true nature through right action, allowing those around us to not feel deceived. We learn to be compassionate, with an open heart and an open mind. We feel safe being our authentic selves. We exude trust and faith in each other.

On our hike, these practices became our way of being. It was so nice to be in a place of sharing, of mutual support, of safety – even while immersed in a world of adventure and challenge.

Through heartfelt leadership, all of us as warriors and healers, balanced and flowing, we became one powerful unit, feeling successes well beyond the sum of each of our individual contributions.

In yoga, we look towards the ideal of pure awareness (isvara), surrendering to the unknown, letting go of perceived boundaries and past conditioning, having faith, and embracing the wisdom of uncertainty… together as one.

On this trip, I believe we scratched the surface of these feelings, towards this ideal, leading ourselves forward like we were one common soul – with heart. And in peace.

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On these rocks, we became Brothers.

Of course, our next challenge will be bringing these teachings into our daily lives and to the world around us. Maybe as brothers, we can.