My upcoming adventure is getting closer by the minute. I’ve just about finished packing the food, all the meals are planned and ready to go. My laundry is done and my backpack is also ready to be packed.
I’m taking a three week solo trek along the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon. I’m leaving from Crater Lake National Park and heading to Mt Hood. Based on miles alone, I can see that it may take anywhere from 14-20 days to complete the 250+ miles. I can imagine myself averaging between 15-18 miles each day though on heavy elevation days that number may be low, and I can also see myself trekking up to 20 miles in a day. However it unfolds, I’m sure it will be monumental.
There are many reasons I’m taking this trek. It kind of all started around my 30th birthday, ten very short years ago. I had decided that since my birthday landed on a Wednesday, I would take the entire week off from work and do whatever I wanted. It was wonderful. I went to movies to see Harry Potter. I went to lunch with friends. I slept in. I stayed up late. The realization that my time was actually MY time to use was astounding. You see, up to that point, I was lead to believe that I was living my life for the purpose of others. I was trapped in the world of the chase for bigger and better things, grinding away hours in a corporate environment with little reward other than money.
Another event where I took time for “just me” was when I went through a 30 day yoga teacher training in Sedona, AZ. We were asked to participate as if we were in an invisible ashram. Thirty days of no phone calls to friends or family, no email, no computer or myspace. We were asked to shut it all off and get completely integrated into the program, and our self. The result was astonishing. At the end of those thirty days, I actually had a sense of self. For the first time in my life, I was in touch with something that was beyond who I was, and though at the time I didn’t understand what that was, I knew I would never be the same again.
One of the things I also walked away from Sedona with was an introduction to Vipassana Meditation. Since receiving my RYT certification from the 7 Centers Yoga Arts, I have sat three 10-day Silent Meditation programs with the Dhamma organization which teaches Vipassana. These 10 days of silence are an internal observation, and though you are with a group of 100 people, you are completely in silence and out of contact with them. The effect is quite substantial with what you gain in the process.
When I was in my early 30’s I decided that I was going to have a day of silence. I emailed all of my training clients for the following day, and I had a full day of them, to let them know I would be spending the next day in silence, and that our scheduled session would go on regardless. The communication that came from not speaking was deep. It touched layers of understanding that words cannot describe. It wasn’t hostile, but open and compassionate.
When I turned 35, I was a business owner of a successful Personal Training and Yoga Studio in Phoenix, AZ called Peaceful Roots. I was “working” on average of 55-60 hours each week, but none of it seemed remotely close to work. I was actually just leaving my house every day to hang out with people, have fun and get fit. I was completely integrated with my community, I wrote a bi-weekly column for a great local LGBT magazine called Echo, and I spent a lot of my free-time volunteering and fundraising for local organizations.
For my 35th birthday, I took another week off and took myself camping in Northern Arizona with my dog Mo. I was reading Eckhart Tolle’s, A New Earth, and it resonated with everything that I was doing in terms of my own spiritual path. It wasn’t that I was reading anything “new to me” in concept, but it was affirming my own self-discovery belief systems. By the time that solo week in the high desert was over, I knew that I would be closing my studio and moving to Portland, OR.
I am now celebrating my 40th birthday, my 3rd year in Portland, and 1 year in a relationship, and though I have had plenty of “me” time here, I haven’t had silent space. A space where I can be free of opinion and demand. A space where contemplation and breath are appreciated by the nature which surrounds it. I am very much looking forward to being OFF the grid.
The commonality of all these experiences is silence. It is a great silence. How can we possibly hear what is going on when we are surrounded by a constant state of noise? It is not just the external noise, but the consistent reactionary internal noise from the man made external experiences. We even have machines that make noise on purpose to emanate silence. The amount of ridiculousness in this leaves me baffled. There is noise in opinion, news, music, Facebook, relationships, food, weather, war and more. There is so much noise in society that we’ve become numb to the silence. Some of us have even created a fear around silence because it has become so foreign to our experience. Me, I long for it. I crave it with every last drop of my eternal existence.
I imagine it will be about three days of solo hiking before I begin to hear the silence. Then a few more days before my internal experience begins to reflect it. I will consciously practice silence daily, along with my morning yoga and meditation. Inside of great silence, comes great awakening. When we become awake, we begin to live. Until then, we are merely passing through time in a perpetual state of noise.