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Enlightening Experiences

Grab your bear can or camp chair, kick your feet up and chew the fat about anything Sierra Nevada related that doesn't quite fit in any of the other forums. Within reason, (and the HST rules and guidelines) this is also an anything goes forum. Tell stories, discuss wilderness issues, music, or whatever else the High Sierra stirs up in your mind.
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Enlightening Experiences

Postby maverick » Thu Feb 14, 2013 7:07 pm

What life changing experience/experiences have you had while being in the
Sierra? How have these events changed your outlook on life and the way
you deal with things back in your every day lives? Have these experiences
helped to define all your life's decisions since?
Have any of you obtained a sense of spiritual enlightenment or some type of
clarity with ones inner true self? Does this calmness, inner solitude, bring
you strength which you can draw from when dealing with issues back in
society?
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org



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Re: Enlightening Experiences

Postby mokelumnekid » Thu Feb 14, 2013 9:54 pm

Interesting question that is hard to capture concisely here, because it is framed by personal experiences that are subtle and not easily categorized in the typical glory-halleluiah 'Bierstadt painting' way. Short answer yes, but the nature and quality of those experiences have really changed as I have moved through the seasons of life. And they aren't particularly tied to the Sierra, any extraordinary experience of Nature that delivers a sense of immediacy provides perspective.

So Mav- what are your experiences in this regard?
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Re: Enlightening Experiences

Postby giantbrookie » Thu Feb 14, 2013 11:31 pm

I don't know if there are specific experiences I can point to, but my trips in the Sierra as a kid with my family and my dad worked to shape so many aspects of how I approach life. Whereas the most simplistic one was that I decided very early on that the high mountains had to be a regular part of my life (probably by about age 7 or 8). Also by about that age, I saw so much of life as a topographic metaphor--both in terms of climbing over high ridges when I had a lot of work to do and in terms of viewing the highlight memories of any given year as metaphoric summits. That has never left me (big big summits in my head lie ahead of me right now--hopefully will be cleared by about May 25). Learning to enjoy the getting there instead of thinking only in terms of the destination or the summit. I must confess the latter didn't really come into play until I was strong enough so that I wasn't dying to keep up with my dad (in fact, not until I was in fact waiting for him)--I can in fact remember the transition trip in that regard, which was the quadruple header peak bag extravanza to Meysan Lake in 1979. That trip was also a watershed moment in terms of bonding with my dad and something I have remembered years afterwards as I became a father--that came from our experience downclimbing this scary crack on LeConte. Other than that moment, I think it is more of just a collage of experiences that have sunk so deeply into my psyche and so deeply influenced my view of life. The high mountains continue to do that to me, but I believe the most substantial shaping of my life view came from the early childhood experiences.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Enlightening Experiences

Postby Strider » Fri Feb 15, 2013 9:18 am

It takes a couple of days to throw off all the poisons of civilization, but when you can hear a bird's wings flapping from 100 yards and meditate in silence at dusk by a lake, it is a renewing experience. Just hate to go back to all the plastic stuff beeping at me.
'Hike long and perspire'
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Re: Enlightening Experiences

Postby mokelumnekid » Fri Feb 15, 2013 9:30 am

Reading Giantbrookie's post also reminded me (and maybe the case with him) that it was those early years rambling around in the Sierra that stoked my interest in geology, and that for sure has been a life-changing experience. That I've been able to make a living doing something that I love, and that it also (as it has with GB) involved doing field work in the Sierra has been extremely gratifying. I reagrd this as a spiritual dimension of sorts.

Specifically, I remember as a youngster, maybe 12 years old, out hiking with my Dad near our cabin in Hermit Valley (Ebbetts Pass area). As we were walking up the trail in an area of bedrock exposure, I noticed that we had crossed over into a very different looking type of 'granite.' We walked back down the trail and found the place where the two types of granite were in direct contact with each other. We both kind of marveled at that, and didn't really know what to make of it. But it sparked an interest in noticing these kinds of things and you can see where that went.... :nod:
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Re: Enlightening Experiences

Postby maverick » Fri Feb 15, 2013 4:33 pm

Let me start by saying that I do not consider myself religious but rather spiritual.
Have never been able to conform to any specific doctrine even after visiting several
different ones over the decades. Attending church, hall, or center every Sunday
just doesn't appeal to me, but more importantly has never helped me create an
understanding or closer bond with the higher being.
The only place that I have clarity and some sort of connection with this being is
in the Sierra. Nothing can help me shed the layers of pain, hurt, frustration or
anger that have accumulated from being in society than a trip into the back
country. When my mother died in 92' nothing could lift the pain and weight on
my soul, not family nor friends but a trip that year to Kings Canyon. I remember
spending the night near the edge of a cliff that overlooks the Muro Blanco near
Kid Lakes, and as the sun started to rise over the horizon the beams started to
illuminate the environment all around me peeling back the layers of pain, hurt,
and anger. Would call it a cleansing of my inner soul and a totally rejuvenating
experience that happens to some extent on most trips, but more intensely
on a few. The last such experience was in the bowl under Striped Mountain
while saying a prayer with Sparky for Larry. Was overcome with a strong sense
of emptiness and despair, but also a feeling of loneliness that was present from
some force in the area. What it meant exactly still alludes me, but I have my
ideas.
Over the years the Sierra has thought me to be more excepting, compassionate
and loving towards my fellow man, and I cannot thank her enough for these lessons
since they have taught me the true values in life.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Enlightening Experiences

Postby Troutdog 59 » Fri Feb 15, 2013 6:10 pm

OK, I'll join in. As others have noted here, my love for the high country and really more the outdoors comes from my early experiences. The Sierra is indeed magical too me, but it isn’t one event or occurrence, its just a culmination of it all. I too am a spiritual person Mav that doesn’t really conform to the more traditional means of spirituality, but being outside (especially the Sierra) seems to bring out my true inner being. It always has.

Ever since I can recall, I have had a bond with the outdoors. It was more than just going fishing with my dad and brother, it was getting out and reveling at all the wonders we would encounter. I still vividly recall and outing with my Dad and brother when I was 9. He took us to a small coastal stream to fish for wild rainbows. He and my brother fly fished, while I drifted single salmon eggs through pools and riffles. We caught fish, but that’s not what is entrenched in my mind. It was seeing hundreds of fire newts at the water’s edge going through their annual courting rituals. Water snakes were abundant and tracks in the srteam side sand gave us notice of other critters like a bear and raccoons. The sounds of songbirds and the rushing water, I knew I was where I needed to be.

At about 12 my dad started taking us to the Sierra on week long summer camp trips. The drive up Hwy 14 and 395 through the Owens Valley was just tremendous too me. Boring, absolutely not!!! I would look at the Inyo Mtns and Dad would point out the lava flows and faults and I would just sit a stare (might have asked a few hundred questions as well;) ). As we got further up he would point out the glacial remnants we could see like the lateral and terminal moraines and some hanging valleys. Doing some day hikes we saw some glacial striations and concentric gouge marks. I was hooked and pretty much knew (even though it took another 15 years or so to get a degree) that geology would be my profession.

As a young teen I was a bit of a rebel and found myself in some trouble with the authorities (nothing terrible like robbery, violence, etc. Just a little wild on the partying side of things). They were trying to beat some sense into me “old fashioned” style, and it just wasn’t working. It was then (age 16) I started to backpack and the effect on me was immediate and obvious to all, especially my parents. Time in the mountains made me more accepting of others and those same folk seemed more willing to hear my opinion as well. I can recall sharing a campsite on the JMT with a surgeon and his wife when they came into our camp late one evening. Back at home I might have been stand offish about sharing such a site with such a person, but it didn’t even cross my mind to say no in the mountains. We had a marvelous evening sharing stories of our adventures and travels and found were very similar in all but appearance.

Other moments of clarity have occurred as well. Times like the evening my wife came up from behind me as I sat watching the sun slowly sink over a gorgeous alpine lake and whispered into my ear that she now knew what drew me back into these mountains year after year. Her first trip had been plagued with problems and she didn’t share my feelings for the wilderness. I talked her into this trip ensuring her we wouldn’t have the same issues as we did on her first attempt :^o . We had the lake to ourselves and she sat with her charcoals (shes the artistic one of the two of us) sketching the scene as I fished. It was the bending of the light and the alpenglow that got her. She marveled in the purity of the setting and would tell me so that night. It was truly a bonding moment for us both, and when we found out on our return that she had been pregnant with our first born on the trip, it made it even more special..

Or the time I wanted to rush my then 7 year old son up the trail so we could get a good spot by the hot springs, but he was engrossed with the wonders of the world he was seeing along the way. A small plank bridge over the creek from Sallie Keyes had caught his attention and he wanted to explore it rather than move on. He marveled at the moss hanging from the plank and was jubilant when he spotted a small trout in the lee of the log supporting the plank. I recalled myself being so excited about the fire newts so many years before. The mountains seemed to tell me to slow down, and enjoy myself. The next mile or so took us about 2 hours to cover, but it was I that was enriched from the experience (and we got a decent camp as well). I had become more of a person of routines and schedules, but it was my son that yanked me back to reality and what’s truly important, enjoying what we see and observe. And then this last summer, I saw my now grown son telling his friend to slow down and enjoy the journey. I was indeed proud.

OK, now that’s even long winded for me, but the answer is yes. The Sierra is my enlightenment each and every visit. I’m just not always in tune enough to appreciate it all the time, but I’ll keep trying ;) .
If you stand in the light, you get the feel of the night, and the music that plays in your ear......
In your mind you can hear, a voice so sweet and clear, and the music that plays in your head......
As it flows up from the ground, taking all that hear the sound, close your eyes, it’s about to begin.

R. Trower
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Re: Enlightening Experiences

Postby Tollermom » Fri Feb 15, 2013 7:48 pm

Some very special and private moments you've all shared. It almost feels like I've been eavesdropping on really personal conversations between two old friends.
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Re: Enlightening Experiences

Postby Timberline » Fri Feb 15, 2013 9:23 pm

Maverick:
Attending church, hall, or center every Sunday
just doesn't appeal to me, but more importantly has never helped me create an
understanding or closer bond with the higher being.
The only place that I have clarity and some sort of connection with this being is
in the Sierra.


Mmmm. . .pretty philosophipcal, Mav, but that's one of the purposes of this website, ain't it? You've hit the nail where I'm at with the quote above. As I've said before on this site, I've always felt the most alive when I'm in the Sierra, and the higher, the better. The light, the air, the silence, the grandeur - - from the smallest flower to the grandest horizon, they all resonate at a very deep level with me. What's more magical than alpenglow? I feel lucky to have discovered that sense early, in my teens, with the help of some friends who were special beyond their knowledge at the time. I feel fortunate, also, to have been able to share some of that feeling with a few close friends, and especially my wife (we spent part of our honeymoon at Rae Lakes) and on bonding backpack trips with my kids.

So yes, time in the Sierra has had a great impact on my life and life decisions. Boiled down to its essence, I think it has taught me most of all to value present moment and to pursue the possibilities within it. After I retired from my "professional" career, I liked tell my friends I had moved from "doing" (as in "what do you do for a living?) to just "being." That's what my time in the Sierra gave me in the past, and it still does.
Let 'er Buck! Back in Oregon again!
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Re: Enlightening Experiences

Postby sparky » Sat Feb 16, 2013 10:30 am

The photo I use in my Avatar I was having a peak spiritual experience, and I just thought I would take a picture of myself. I was at Monarch Lake when I took the photo. I had just come over Cyclemen Pass and Glacier Pass. On Glacier Pass I suddenly found myself in a horrible situation on steep snow, and barely got myself out of it. I come up and over the pass, descended right there following a use trail to nowhere and then had to traverse straight over to the lower Monarch lake. It was a hard day.

The absolute beauty that surrounded me on every difficult and even life threatening step felt like I was traveling through a metaphor. But not really a metaphor it is a reality that we all chose to silently ignore. We chose to live in a false bubble where we try our hardest to create this perfect world completely under control. A mind space where we expect a fair shake. We expect certain conditions and when these conditions aren't met we are outraged. This is so wrong and it is a great source of self inflicted misery. All the while the true beauty lies in embracing the hardships, the pain, as they define the heights of our joy. Experiencing each step good and bad without judgement is how nature works. In reality nothing is good and bad, it is just a change that leads to another change into an infinite fractal.

My sister at the time was diagnosed with stage four cancer suddenly and given months to live. It was horrible as she had no symptoms. As many of you know, the treatment is as bad as the disease, and worse when you show no symptoms and feel fine. I thought about this situation the whole trip. It inspired this trip. I was feeling sorry for her, and myself, because I felt LIFE WAS UNFAIR. I realized that is a stupid way to think.

Anyway, so I plop myself down at Monarch Lake. As evening started to take over I parked myself on a rock with a great view to watch the sunset. I put in my headphones, and this song came through. The stars aligned. I felt this moment was orchestrated. I really cannot convey how deeply powerful and personal this moment affected me. It was like all the whirlwind chatotic emotional feelings were stripped away, I was washed clean. I told the universe it is "OK", do your thing.



I realized that I am me and you and them, and the rocks and the trees, the stars and galaxys, the atoms and quarks, that we are all this great unifying energy experiencing itself subjectively. Bad leads to good, and good leads to bad, its all the same, and life is perfect in all its forms. It couldn't possibly be any other way. Experience it, absorb it, and keep moving.

So here I am, watching the beautiful sunset. The music is chanting "We Want you to be happy!" over and over and over (It was an extended live version of the song linked above). Tears started streaming down my face from the sheer connectedness I felt. I started spinning circles for who knows why. When I suddenly realize another human is here with me. It is a woman, another lone hiker. I was startled and a little embarassed. I walked over to give a very awkward hello. I wonder who that was. Was she even real? Are you out there in high sierra topix land? Who was at monarch lake mid august 2010?

The only time I can feel really connected is while alone in the mountains. I think we can all agree on that. No bills, no job, no relationships, no clocks. Just experiencing each step good or bad without judgement.

Mav, that moment beneith striped was just as powerful to me as this one. It is strange you mention the loneliness as I felt it too. But it wasn't Larrys loneliness I felt, it was Clouse's, it was his childs, his family, and our loneliness shining through.
There is a million ways to be human, all are worthwhile.

True happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.
-Chuang Tzu.
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Re: Enlightening Experiences

Postby LMBSGV » Sat Feb 16, 2013 11:23 am

The main reason I seek wilderness experiences is for those spiritual, transcendent moments. That is when I comprehend the essence of both myself and life itself. In order to understand those moments of perception and insight in their larger context, many years ago, I took a couple of long solo trips and wrote a book. These are the final paragraphs of the Epilogue when I descend from Forester Pass to Road’s End:

I turn and descend, traversing the ecological zones of the Sierra in a matter of hours. From the jagged ridges and spacious sky of 13,200 feet, I make my way down past opal lakes amid gray rock and sand, wide-open meadows in transition from green to brown, bubbling creeks, scrubby scattered whitebarks. As I follow Bubbs Creek through the high walls of the canyon, whitebarks mix with lodgepoles; the all-encompassing expansiveness becomes forest. The trail turns from rock gray to dirt brown as the forest becomes denser; lodgepole pines extend towards the blue sky. Bubbs Creek plunges between granite walls to Kings Canyon far below; I feel as if I’m moving with the creek’s falling water. The foliage thickens; tall ferns swish as I walk through the greenery; aspens rustle in the afternoon breeze. With each step I move through the immense diversity and infinite beauty of life on Earth.

I reach the forested five-thousand-foot floor of Kings Canyon as the radiance of sunset filters through the tall pines and tints the canyon’s walls. A solitary being in the surrounding vastness, my individual identity merges into the wilderness, becoming a tiny piece in something grander than I can ever imagine. There is only me and the wilderness. Nothing separates us. Who I am, what I am, even why I am, become not so much comprehended as empathized in the essence of my being. My body, mind, and spirit feel as separated as they ever have, yet as united as they ever will be. The why of life seems irrelevant. There is only is. The past and future dissolve in the here and now. In this moment between billions of past and future moments, I exist in the eternal.

The shadows and light, the shades of color, the glimmer of the last glow on the flowers, waters, rocks, and sky — all the elements of life come together, shining in their singular and collective glory. None seek individual greatness at the expense of the greater whole. Each is distinct and each a piece of something beyond, each simply and beautifully an infinitesimal part of the infinite cycle of life.

Tomorrow the morning star will rise again.
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Re: Enlightening Experiences

Postby maverick » Sat Feb 16, 2013 11:31 am

Thank you for those of you who have chimed in with their experiences. Have met
many folks who feel similarly but would be intimidated to share theirs experiences
because of judgement or ridicule, but the person doing such should be the one
looking within their inner soul and examining the root cause of their self destructive
feelings. All the negative feelings we have at one moment or worse hold on too, like
for example when some one cuts you off on the freeway causing you to jam on the
breaks impacts you not only by the immediate adrenalin rush but the subsequent
anger that can lead to very dire consequences, on top of all this can have a long
term medical impact on us to.
When one goes to the "fountain of inner prosperity ", one of the names I have for
the Sierra, it allows me to dip it to this imaginary fountain allowing me to draw
from its healing qualities during the rest of the year. In the above example on can
immediately recall a special moment that had a feeling of tranquility and peace
which will counter the negative effects of such incidents and more importantly
protects our well being, physically and emotionally. Surely everyone here has had an
incident/incidents where things are rough going and you have drawn on a particular
time and place in the Sierra that calmed you down and allowed you to have
some inner peace, which in turn helped you get through what ever you were going
through.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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