Over the July 4th long weekend, I went on a trip with my oldest son, Abhi. We drove down south through the gold country to the old mining town of Auburn, and from there  even further south to the remote town of Foresthill. I’ve heard Foresthill sometimes called the “armpit of the Sierras,” which is, I’d say, a little unfair. It’s not really on the way to anywhere, so you might possibly get the sense that it’s where you end up when you get lost. We only stopped in Foresthill long enough to get ourselves a fire permit, and then we drove another 40 miles on a tiny road that clung to the side of the steep American River ravine. We passed across the French Meadow Reservoir dam, and kept driving. During the entire 40 mile journey from Forest Hill, I don’t remember passing a single dwelling. The road turned to dirt after about 28 miles.

We parked our car at the end of the dirt road, a place called Talbot crossing. A ranger had been stationed there to perform a survey that is conducted once every five years. His job was to monitor how many people hike in from the crossing into the Granite Chief wilderness area. “There have only been five,” he told us, “the entire day. And that will probably be it for the holiday weekend.”  Although this is one of the most popular weekends of the year to get outside, there was only one party parking at the campground where the road ends. From here, Abhi and I hiked in another 4 hours with everything we needed in our backpacks.

I’ve given you this build-up to emphasize that where we were going was REMOTE. Even on the busiest weekend of the year, there was nobody here. We set up our small tent next to a fast-moving creek.

And for the next 2 days, we focused on doing… absolutely nothing.

Sure, we cooked some food now and then. We talked a little. On the second day we took a long hike. We were back on the earth exactly, I mean exactly, the way that it was naturally occurring before the human mind imposed its ideas on it.

We call an experience like this going into “nature” or “the wilderness.” But actually, if you think about it, these words are quite unnecessary. We should really just have a word for “not nature,” meaning roads and cities and towns and trains and factories. Everything else doesn’t really need a name because it’s what the Earth is like already. We didn’t go “into nature,” we just took a break from “not nature.” We left behind physical structures and schedules and electronics, and we also left behind all of the habits associated with those things. (more…)

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Imagine this.

Do you have small children in your life? Perhaps you have your own children, or nieces or nephews, or grandchildren, or maybe the children of friends or neighbors.

Imagine that you go to the toy store and buy the gift that would make one of these children incredibly happy. When my kids were young, it was the latest Lego set, so they could build a pirate ship or a Star Wars space craft. It could be tickets to Disneyland, or a beautiful doll house.

Now imagine that you buy that gift for this special child. You have it wrapped in shiny, silver paper with wide red ribbons and a bow. And now imagine that you take this gift home and hide it in the closet behind your clothes.

Now imagine that you never give this gift. It remains hidden behind your clothes in the closet…

Forever.

Oh come on, Arjuna, enough of the emotional manipulation, what’s your point?

My point is that, sad and twisted as this story may be, it bears a tragic resemblance to the way many of us have led our lives, not just in relationship to one child, but in relationship to everyone you know. I’m sure that at peak moments – when feeling deeply in love, or inspired, or at the beginning of some new endeavor, or after a vacation – the clouds part and you absolutely know your own deep potential and what you have to give. Suddenly it’s clear: the movie you could make, the novel you could write, or maybe it’s the way you could be raising your children, or the meals you could be cooking, or the garden you could be growing. In these moments of great insight, you realize how you could be treating people, how you could be treating your own body, the gifts you would be pouring into the world if not for…

That’s right. Just as everyone has a unique gift to give, for most of us it is also buried behind the clothes in the closet. And, tragically, for many people, the deeper gift never gets given. (more…)

PARENTAs we move full on into summer time, where the living is easy, fish are jumping and the cotton is high…  those of us with small children to steward may feel a little challenged by the demands as well as the rewards of parenting.  So here is a passage from my 2005 Bestseller, “The Translucent Revolution.”

Highly connected parenting may seem overwhelming, too much work for a busy parent, a luxury we need to postpone for later. By making parenting into a translucent practice, not only do we usher in more wakefulness, but our parenting also becomes much easier. Recently, while grocery shopping, I passed an aisle where a small child was screaming. She was refusing to walk, and her mother, who looked extremely stressed, was dragging her by the arm away from the freezer. A battle about ice cream was under way. Finally, the mother picked her daughter up by the arm. There she was, dangling in midair. Her screams became louder. Her embarrassed mother yelled at her daughter to be quiet and finally hit her. It didn’t work too well. The child screamed even louder. I winced and moved on. We often see these kinds of battles, where parents are imposing discipline. It hurts. I am always reminded of how easily I used to go in that direction myself as a dad, before the boys were bigger and stronger than I am!

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