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…)

This is a practice from my 2008 book Leap Before You Look.

Find a place in nature
Where you can go every day.

If you live in a city,
It could be a park or even a flowerbed,
But if you live near a forest, like we do,
Step into the wild outdoors.
Sit in exactly the same spot every day,
Facing in the same direction,
And just be with things as they are.
Feel through your skin;
Listen carefully;
Watch and pay attention to the colors and shapes and movement.
Be aware of the movement of the trees,
The sounds and activities of small animals and insects.
The boundaries where you end
And nature begins
Will dissolve.

At the core of modern humanity’s suffering is the feeling of separation. We feel separated from each other in the ways we relate. We feel separated from the other members of our family. We feel separated from each other in our religious beliefs. We feel separated financially, racially, nationally. We feel separated from ourselves and from nature and from the divine.

Nature is not a way to experience Oneness; nature is One. There is no me and not-me in nature: everything is interconnected. When you return to the same place every day, you are returning to an ecosystem that is constantly in relationship with itself. The bark of the tree is home to the ants, who move in and out of the earth. They are eaten sometimes by the birds, whose song fills the space, and whose excrement returns to the soil. Everything is part of everything else. Nature is making love to itself, and eating itself, and excreting itself on itself all the time. Nature is incestuous, cannibalistic, and totally uncivilized.

When you start to sit in the same spot every day, you will at first feel like an outsider. You are bringing your civilized mind into nature, like an intellectual from New York City trying to fit in on a farm. You may sit awkwardly on the edge of a tree trunk, trying not to get dirty or be bitten by bugs. And just as you may feel cut off from nature, so nature may also not yet open to you. But just wait a little while. As you relax into this place, it will affect you, and you will affect it as well. You will become a part of the ecosystem. You will be accepted into the family. After a while, you may even experience the trees and the birds welcoming you home each day.

Your visits to this place will become an initiation into Oneness.

You can discover 72 practices like this in Leap Before You Look.

Buy it now from our online store.

fingerpointingBy now pretty much everybody has been affected in one way or another by the change in economic climate.  Some people have been hit really hard, like Dave from Brighton, I described in the post below, who lost his job and was concerned that he wouldn’t have the money to pay for gifts for his family for Christmas.  Or Maureen, who I met recently in Michigan, who’s husband lost his job along with their medical insurance.  When she discovered she had a rare blood disease, it looked like it would inevitably drive them to bankruptcy.  Others have been less drastically affected, perhaps had to just cut back on unnecessary luxuries.
The amazing thing about this shift in the economy, which I have discovered from my coaching clients, and from traveling and teaching, is how many of us take it personally.  It’s not logical of course.  But it’s a pandemic how easily we feel, “I did something wrong, it was my fault, I have failed.”
If you’ve noticed this happening for you, here are 5 simple tips to put things in perspective. (more…)