Saturday, July 25, 2015

Tribal Ground Circle Study Group: Going Wild, July 2015

TGC Study Group Going Wild

Thank you all for the warm welcome and the shared time in the wilds. As a group that has been together so long exploring Gestalt awareness I found it such a rich pleasure to be with you as we took a deep dive into the wilds. I am blessed to be a part of this community!

Photos of the Day

If you are not familiar with the work of Tribal Ground Circle, here are some links:
Tribal Ground Circle
Christine Price & Tribal Ground
Dorothy Charles & Relational Gestalt Practice

Warm Hugs,

Steven

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Simply Wild: Esalen, June 2015

Simply Wild!

What a remarkable community we built during our time in the wilds. I continue to be impressed by how simply spending time, often in silence, attending to the unfolding moments builds not only connection to place, but connection to others. I can thank us all for our courage to be open, intimate, and show up for ourselves, each other, and "this one wild and precious" place we call Big Sur. We co-created this together. May the simple and wild threads of our deepest moments weave seamlessly into the fabric of our lives.

Some requested links:
Photos
Poems to Live By many poems I read, plus much more...
Trees of Big Sur and the Central Coast of California
Tribal Ground Circle: workshops & training with Christine Price
NOLS: the school that both Angela and I taught for and still have deep roots
Forest Bathing or Shinrin-yoku (森林浴)
The Way of Wilderness: an article that is published in "Ecopsychology"
Angela's website
Jonathan's website 

As you read this now, I invite you to pause for a moment as though you have just heard the ringing of the bell on the trail... and for the next three breaths... I invite you to open your awareness and attend to whatever arises. May we all be "idle and blessed."

With a warm heart, two claps, deep bow,

Steven

Monday, June 29, 2015

Fathers & Sons: Esalen, June 2015

Celebrating Father's Day in the Tradition of the Old Ways

What a gift to be together. Fathers and sons of all ages and generations. There seems to be something primal about walking in silence in wilderness in the company of men—young and old—fathers with sons—passing on and deepening the skillful family lineages and traditions while letting go of the ones that no longer serve, creating new traditions filled with aliveness and authentic connection. I feel a deep appreciation for our collective willingness to deepen our relationships and build upon the foundations of what works with the underlying intimacy of love.

The wonderful convergence of birthdays, Father's Day, the Summer Solstice supported our time. I hope we each continue to deepen and build the relationships we each have, and perhaps the benefit will ripple out into other parts of our lives and the greater world. This type of investment has a life long pay back of value that does not die.

Here are some links:
Photos: Some group and individual photos you are welcome to download
Charles Varni Ceramics
V Bar V Heritage Site the native site where  Charles took inspiration from to create the tiles 

Gratitude to my sons Kai and Kes for their willingness and capacity to keep showing up so fully. Gratitude for the many gifts we gave each other in story, presence, and especially the tiles that Charles so thoughtfully made for each of us. Gratitude for each of you for participating and celebrating in our time together.

Heartfelt regards to each of you,

Steven

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Art of Pilgrimage: Ojai, June 2015

Part of our Pilgrimage group along the Sespe River

Here is another version/translation of the Zen story that I told out on the path from the "Book of Serenity"

Zen Teacher Earth Treasury asked the monk Dharma Eye as he was leaving the monastery, "Where are you going?"
Dharma Eye said, "I am going on pilgrimage."
Earth Treasury said, "What is the purpose of pilgrimage?"
Dharma Eye said, "I don't know."
Earth Treasury said, "Not knowing is most intimate."
Dharma Eye was greatly awakened at these words.

Here are some links:
Photos: most of these photos are from Alana (sorry we never managed to get a whole group photo)
Exploring Pilgrimage by request, draft notes on pilgrimage 
Meal Chant Stew Since Bro. David Steindl-Rast's quotes kept coming up, an article about gratefulness 
Walking Water Pilgrimage: a project and a short film that Laura Whitney's husband Jim made and appears on the homepage
Walking Water definition of what pilgrimage might be.
Inner Wild An organization that Shannon is a part of
The Traveling School where Shannon is president of the board
The Ojai Foundation check out their other offerings!

We were blessed with such a wonderful variety of weather. From pea-soup thick fog,  needed rain, to clear star-filled nights, to hot sun with little shade... not to mention the external weather. I hope each of us is able to bring something embodied back to our other lives as a gift to self and others. I am filled with gratitude and hope to see you all again along the wild path.

Special thanks to Adam for his encouragement to come down to Ojai and for co-leading with me. Gratitude to Alana for support and photos along the way. Thanks for all of you for choosing to show up and do the hokey pokey—putting your whole self in and shaking all about. Deep bow to all of the seen and unseen conditions that supported our being together on the path.

I invite you to pause for a moment as though you have just heard the ringing of the bell... and for the next three breaths... I invite you to open your awareness and attend to whatever arises. May we all live "most intimately."

Deep gratitude filled bow,

Steven

Monday, May 25, 2015

Walk on the Wild Side: Esalen, May 2015

Walking Wild in Big Creek

"I am well again, I came to life in the cool winds and crystal waters of the mountains..."
~ John Muir

What walks with us from the wilds of Big Sur to our other lives? This is the question I ask myself and almost all individuals and groups to hold gently as an open question in their lives. Patiently weave the threads of somatically felt moments that have heart and meaning into the fabric of our daily life. Even in the middle of the busiest city, as Mary Oliver suggests, "there is still somewhere deep within you a beast shouting that the earth is exactly what it wanted." Are we willing to hear the shouting at least as a whisper, and let the whispers inform our moment to moment choices along the path? May we listen deeply. May the wilds (inside and out) keep calling us into authentic aliveness.

Here are some links that were requested and some just for fun:
Photos
Kings of the Kelp: California Sea Otters by Steven
Elusive Wild Beauty: Mountain Lions by Steven
Meal Chant Stew by Steven published on Bro. David Steindl-Rast's site
Big Creek Reserve (if you are inclined to support some of the places we visited)
Jeff Myers Art
Ojai Foundation (where Adam is Executive Director and retreat leader)
New Leadership Adventure (Adam's new project, site to be launched soon)
Art of Pilgrimage at Ojai Foundation with Adam & Steven

About Muir
How Muir Are You?
John Muir: Wikipedia
John Muir: Nature's Visionary by Gretel Ehrlich (my favorite book about Muir)

"The mountain are calling and I must go"
~ John Muir

Walking Wildly,

Steven

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Nature of Zen: Tassajara, May 2015

Tassajara Jizo

Here is the story that Leslie used in one or our discussions:

As the Buddha was walking with the congregation, he pointed to the ground with his finger and said, "This spot is good to build a sanctuary." Indra, Emperor of the gods, took a blade of grass, stuck it in the ground and said, "The sanctuary is built." The Buddha smiled.
~ from the Book of Serenity

Walking with our group this last weekend at Tassajara for moments I could feel sanctuaries being built in every moment—each of us planting blades of grass, building santuary, and smiling. As I told the group, I mark time by my seasonal return to Tassajara. Coming over the road crossing Chew's Ridge and descending into Tassajara Creek is a threshold and the journey is a pilgrimage. Thank you for conspiring (from latin, meaning breathing together) to build sanctuary. May something of our time together journey with you into your other life.

Here are some links that may be of interest:
Tassajara Photos
Robin's Photos
Steven's Photos: form this retreat (I took the fewest ever!)
Mindful by Mary Oliver
Coulter Pines
Meal Chant Stew: this is an article I wrote about the Tassajara meal chant and how I changed the language to align with my own experience and use. It came up as a topic in our group discussion.

Thanks to the staff at Tassajara in supporting us at the very beginning of the guest season. Special thanks to Benson, Tjarn, and especially Leslie—and of course the wilds of the Santa Lucia Mountains.

Gassho (Deep Bow) to each of us...

Steven

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Big Sur Wilderness Experience: Esalen, April 2015

Crossing Bridges Into the Wilds

What a way to begin my 2015 wilderness workshop season! I am so deeply grateful for how everyone showed up in such a sweet way with themselves, each other, and the wilds. Special thanks go to Stacy and Tjarn — I believe we were all blessed to have their gentle leadership, support, and attention on the path. And, of course, the wilds of Big Sur was a great teacher, offering up good medicine for diving deeper, nourishing soul food, and inspirational seeds to plant and grow in our other worlds.

Here are some links I hope will serve:
Photos
Doug Overman's Photos 
Poems to Live By
Among the Wonderful by Stacy Carlson (or better yet, ask your local bookseller to order it)
Stacy Carlson
Redwoods yet more about these amazing trees
Meal Chant Stew A short piece on gratefulness

And, I am sure you have all hand written your seed quality(s), and are finding ways to plant what was given as gift in this wild world and grow it in your other world—whatever, wherever that may be. May it be so...

Two claps, deep bow to each of you,

Steven

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Shinrin-yoku — Forest Bathing

Group Partaking in Shinrin-yoku

Forest Bathing, called Shinrin-yoku (森林浴), as I understand it, is the Japanese concept of spending time in nature to re-embody our deep connection to nature, to find balance, heal, and make whole again ourselves and our fundamental relationship to nature—both inner and outer.

In Japan there are 44 'accredited' Shinrin Yoku forests... a novel social construct, as I believe any forest will do for Forest Bathing—certified or not. John Muir reminds us, "Every body needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul."

There is mounting scientific studies and evidence that supports the practice of Forest Bathing, or what I prefer to call Wild Nature Bathing. Our physiological and neuro-psychological systems are affected in numerous ways that science is just scratching the surface in it's understanding.

Don't take the wisdom of Japanese culture or western science's word—get out and bathe in wild nature—feel for yourself the potential of Shinrin-yoku.

Wishing you wholesome Forest Bathing from the Big Sur,

Steven

Friday, January 30, 2015

Get Wild

Wilds of Big Sur

Many, if not most, of us are starved for genuine contact with and experience of wild nature. Wildness brings us to aliveness in manner few other environments can—nourishment for the unnameable terrain deep within.

Now is the time to grow our connection, understanding, and relationship with the natural world. I invite you to join me on a journey and let yourself be touched by the healing beauty of wild nature.

Most of my 2015 workshops have been scheduled and are up on my website. Some have already booked full! July through October dates are up, but not yet open for enrollment. Take a look to see what might call to you: 2015 Workshops & Retreats.

In the meantime, I am wishing for each of us that the new year is off to a good start and is filled with moments of pure delight and simply being.

Here is a link to inspire your inner wild journey: Poems to Live By

Warmest regards from the Big Sur,

Steven

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Happy Everthing!

Big Sur in Ultramarine Blue

On this Solstice Day...

Wishing each and everyone of us happiness and moments of raw wild beauty in the coming year... In the midst of the fullness of our busy lives — space; in the midst of the constant chatter of daily life — silence; may we all recognize the moments when less is more — and know simplicity as blessing; may we let ourselves be touched by our heart's capacity to open — giving and receiving; may we be blessed with freedom from suffering — and know kindness in all of it's expressions; may we tune in — listen deeply to the pulsing beat — and live the life that no one else can live.

From the Wilds of the Big Sur...

Steven

An invitation to celebrate the Solstice. I made this years ago when I was learning iMovie: The Solstice

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Seasons of Gratitude

Han at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center

This has been a year of my mother's passing as well as many friends and colleagues. There is something about losing a dear friend and loved one that brings forth such a wide range of emotions and feelings — that brings to foreground the immediacy of this life we are living. Along with the grief of loss is the sensation from deep down of gratitude. Gratitude for this life, gratitude for sharing precious wild moments with those that have passed, and renewed gratitude for those people and thing that are right before me.

This is the season of giving thanks — yet we all know gratitude can be given in all seasons. I, at least, need reminders. At Tassajara Zen Mountain Center there are large wooden blocks that are struck hard and clean sending a sound that carrys through the valley calling students to "practice" in the meditation hall. Written on the the wooden blocks (Han) are words that remind the practitioners of the immediacy of our life. I have seen many translations written by various teacher at various zen centers. The one above reads:

"Wake Up 
Life is transient
Swiftly Passing
Be aware
The great matter
Don't waste time"

From a Cypress tree I cut this winter after the fire here that burned our property and almost burned our home, I have been cutting, carving, planing, shaping, a Han for my home.

I hope to write something like:

"Life is transient
Be aware
Be grateful
Wake Up!"

With a large wooden mallet I hope to strike the slab of wood and let the sound penetrate to the bones reminding me of this wild life unfolding. The sound calling up from deep down the presence of gratitude and wakefulness — a reminder and call to life.

Giving heartfelt thanks to you all,

Steven

P.S. For those that might want to read more about gratefulness here is a link to an article that I wrote sometime back that is published on Bro. David's Gratefulness website: Meal Chant Stew.

For more about the fire of less than a year ago: Pfeiffer Fire

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The Real Work

The Playa at Sunrise

This quote has been living with me on my desk much of this year. I keep finding new meaning in the same quote and new inspiration in the same words.

"The real work is becoming native in your heart, coming to understand we really live here, that this is really the continent we're on, and that out loyalties are here, to these mountains and rivers, to these plant zones, to these creatures. The real work involves a loyalty that goes back... billions of years. The real works is accepting citizenship in the earth itself."
~ Gary Snyder

My open inquiry is what it means to become native in my own heart... what it means to accept citizenship in the earth itself.

In wild wonder,

Steven

Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Art of Pilgrimage: Green Gulch Zen Center, September 2014

Pilgrims on the Path

Here is another version/translation of the Zen story that Layla told in the zendo from the "Book of Serenity"

Zen Teacher Earth Treasury asked the monk Dharma Eye as he was leaving the monastery, "Where are you going?"
Dharma Eye said, "I am going on pilgrimage."
Earth Treasury said, "What is the purpose of pilgrimage?"
Dharma Eye said, "I don't know."
Earth Treasury said, "Not knowing is most intimate."
Dharma Eye was greatly awakened at these words.

Here are some links:
Tassajara Zen Mountain Center Someone had asked for additional information
Exploring Pilgrimage by request, a draft article on pilgrimage 
Meal Chant Stew an article about gratefulness

We were blessed with a perfect day, incredible views, and a community of 'pilgrims' on the path. I am so touched to see both new and familiar faces from Esalen, Tassajara, and past Green Gulch pilgrimages. My hope and intention of offering this retreat was and is to explore what meaningful contemporary pilgrimage might be, to build community, and deepen our connection to place. All of my hopes and intentions for the day were met. I am filled with gratitude and hope to see you all again next year, if not sooner.

Special thanks to Layla Smith for so gracefully stepping in at the last minute, and to Linda and Laura for support along the way.

I invite you to pause for a moment as though you have just heard the ringing of the practice bell... and for the next three breaths... I invite you to open your awareness and attend to whatever arises. May we all live "most intimately."

Deep gratitude filled bow,

Steven

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Way of Nature: Esalen, September 2014

Ways of Nature

"Approach it and there is no beginning;
follow it and there is no end.
Your can't know it, but you can be it,
as ease in your own life.
Just realize where you come from:
this is the essence of wisdom"
~ Lao Tzu from the Tao de Ching

This was my last workshop at Esalen for the 2014 season. What a good way to step into the changing of the season and the beginning of Fall. Once again, I am touched by our capacity to be courageous, curious, compassionate and build a fabric of community that supports our wild explorations.

Here are some links:
Photos
Start Close In by David Whyte
Poem To Live By A growing collection of poems
Meal Chant Stew an article about gratefullness that I wrote some time back that was recently published
Elemental Esalen For elemental inspiration

Group Links:
Bucklin Wines
Westerbeke Ranch
Jim Schantz Jim's art work
Schantz Galleries
Any more personal links anyone in our group would like to add?

Two claps and one deep bow,
Steven

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Big Sur Wilderness Experience: Esalen, August 2014

Big Sur Wild Ones

I am late to post something for our group... life has had other plans for me.

So grateful to you all for the week of exploration and cultivating our capacity to "show up" for this wild and precious life. Special thanks to John and Kes for helping out along the way. Thanks to Kate for getting the email list going and everyone that contributed so many remarkable photos!

Here are some links specific to our group:
Photos
For All by Gary Snyder
What to Remember When Waking by David Whyte
Poems To Live By Other poems for the path

Mountain Lions
Gratefulness 

Wild regards to you all,

Steven

Friday, August 22, 2014

For Poetry and the Human Race

Big Sur Serpentine

"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for."   
~ From Dead Poet's Society — spoken by the character played by Robin Williams


from the Sur,

Steven

Monday, July 14, 2014

Nature of Movement: Esalen, July 2014

Moved by wild nature

This is one to remember...

First off, thank you all for gathering around each other so gracefully as Kai and I headed off on our adventure on Wednesday. It was so good to feel all of the great support from Kai, Katie, Tjarn, and each of you in your care and kindness. Big Sur seems to keep coming through with its wondrous beauty to touch the deep down places in each of us.

As you read this I hope you can feel a fuller breath coming into your body, a dialogue with gravity occurring in this moment, and a balance of attentional field as you feel the back of you body equal to the front.

Here are a few links:
Steven's Photos
Doreen's Photos
Poems to Live By (a collection of poems for the path)
Joy's Lost Found Art 
YuLin's Gorging Movie
For those of you that use Facebook, YuLin created a group: Tribe: Esalen Nature of Movement 14
Anyone else have a link they would like me to add?

Then this poem came to mind when thinking of this group... another Mary Oliver!

The Plum Trees
by Mary Oliver 

Such richness flowing
through the branches of summer and into

the body, carried inward on the five
rivers! Disorder and astonishment

rattle your thoughts and your heart
cries for rest but don’t

succumb, there’s nothing
so sensible as sensual inundation. Joy

is a taste before
it’s anything else, and the body

can lounge for hours devouring
the important moments. Listen,

the only way
to tempt happiness into your mind is by taking it

into the body first, like small
wild plums.

The Plum Trees by Mary Oliver: Audio file read by Steven This is a first time experiment. It downloads as a m4a audio file on my computer... hope it works on yours.

Two claps, Deep bow... a touch to earth,

Steven

Monday, June 30, 2014

Simply Wild: Esalen, June 2014

Simply Wild... Idle and Blessed

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done.

~ Mary Oliver 

Tell me what else should we have done? What a rich week and diverse group from around the world. From Columbia, Sweden, England, India, Florida, New York, and more, we came together to simply explore the wild terrain of both inner and outer scapes of this precious life. Heartfelt gratitude to all...

Here are some links:
Photos
Etta's Photos!
Summer Day by Mary Oliver
Poems to Live By (includes many poems I work with)
Meal Chant Stew (an article about offering gratitude on Brother David's Site)

Personal Sites:
Ojai Foundation (where Adam is the Executive Director)
Adam's Yoga Site
Laura's Tea Shop Site (I look forward to visiting Columbia for the tea)
Etta's Photography Site (I have one of her books!)
Jonathan Weiskopf's Site
Jonathan Simon's Site
Anyone else in the group care to add their site?

Warmest regards from the simple wilds of the Sur,

Steven

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Walk on the Wild Side: Esalen, May 2014

"The mountains are calling and I must go." said John Muir

We went out to the mountains, and as Muir discovered, "for going out, I found, was really going in." So, as we journeyed out into the wilds of Big Sur, we also traveled into the inner wilds of this life of ours. Once again I find myself filled with gratitude for wild nature, specifically how it is expressed in Big Sur, and for you all, specifically how you chose to engage with wild nature, self, and others. May we all find ways to keep showing up for this wild life we have been given. Inspired by Muir, may we all find our way in living an authentic life — the life that only we can live.

Here are many links inspired from the week (and some that were specifically requested):
Photos
How Muir Are You?
John Muir: Nature's Visionary (my favorite book about Muir's life)
Trees of Big Sur
Big Creek Donation: Online or by Form
Among the Wonderful by Stacy Carlson (buy>read or listen>review)
Dan's site 
Dan on YouTube
Silvia's site
Michael's site
Is there any one else in the group that would like me to add a link to your photos of the week or  your website?

Deep bow to Stacy and Isabel for their grace, great support, and leading the way on the path.

Wildly,

Steven

Thursday, May 08, 2014

The Nature of Zen: Tassajara Zen Center

Nature of Zen at the Wind Caves

I love being a part of the opening of the Tassajara guest season. There is a freshness to the place, the practice, and with spring emerging — the land. Thank you all for stepping into the wilds with such grace. I am honored to work with Leslie James, and blessed to have you all "show up" so wonderfully.

Here are some links to further your inspiration for practice:
Nature of Zen Photos
Tassajara Zen Mountain Center Photos
Enough by David Whyte
Meal Chant Stew: a personal story inspired by the Tassajara meal chant published on Bro. David's site Gratefulness.org

Two claps, one deep bow to you all,

Steven

Monday, April 28, 2014

Big Sur Wilderness Experience: April 2014

BSWE at Julia Pfeiffer-Burns State Park

"Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you."
~ John O'Donohue 

What an incredible way to start my workshop season! Everyone "showed up" so fully and completely in their own unique manner. The wilds of Big Sur gave us some great weather, amazing wildlife, and good adventures — both inner and outer. Wishing for everyone that their transition is going well. Heartfelt gratitude to each of you and to our collective group of pilgrims.

Here are some links to hopefully encourage our deepening and growing the seeds of meaningful experience into our "other" lives:
Group Photos
Esalen 2014 Video Stephen Matheson's video of our group
For a New Beginning by John O'Donohue (a poem/blessing to inspire)
Poems to Live By: You can find all of the poem I read, plus more.
2014 Workshops & Retreats

If you have links to photos you would like me to add, please send them along.

Wild regards form the Sur,

Steven

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Real Work

Middlebury College Fellows for Environment Writing

"The real work is becoming native in your heart, coming to understand we really live here, that this is really the continent we're on, and that our loyalties are here, to these mountains and rivers, to these plant zones, to these creatures. The real work involves a loyalty that goes back... billions of years. The real work is accepting citizenship in the earth itself."

~ Gary Snyder

Authors Bill McKibben and Chris Shaw bring a group of young up and coming writers to Esalen each year for the culmination of their year long fellowship in environmental writing. It is hopeful to see the enthusiastic passion for this earth and genuine concern I see in this dedicated group.

Here are some links to Bill's work:
Bill McKibben
350.org

May we all find our way with the "real work" of accepting citizenship in the earth.

Happy Easter,

Steven

Friday, March 14, 2014

Got Wild

 Sunshine breaking through... along the Little Sur River

Suffering from WDD (Wilderness Deficit Disorder)? Many people are starved for genuine contact with wild nature.

Now is the time to deepen our connection, understanding, and relationship with the natural world. I invite you to join me on a journey and let yourself be touched by the healing beauty of wild nature.

Most of my 2014 workshops have been scheduled and are up on my website. Some have already booked full. Take a look to see what might call to you: 2014 Workshops & Retreats.

In the meantime, I hope you attend to your WDD. Create time to get out, and get in the wilds of nature. If you can't get out, here is a link to inspire your inner wild journey: Poems to Live By

Wild regards from the Big Sur,
Steven

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Stalking the Wild

The rare and elusive albino redwood

A little over a week ago I got the opportunity to head out into the Santa Lucia Mountains with one of the top experts in the world on confers (gymnosperms). We were out looking for good examples of the Santa Lucia Fir. It is quite possibly the rarest fir in the world, only occurring in a few locations in this mountain range.

On our return, we stopped at a location that I had previously found the rare albino redwood. Often when I tell people about the albino redwoods they are sure I am spinning a story testing their sense of humor or good judgement — or both. I know when I was first told about them I thought my friend was pulling my leg to see just how far he could stretch it.

The 2008 fire killed many of few albino redwood I know of in the range. This particular one had been the largest I had ever come across. What fun to come around the corner of the stream to see creamy white leaves. The tree had burned, but good sized sprouts were coming back — I was filled with delight.

There is something that comes alive when I am out stalking in the wilds. Paying attention, engaged with all of my senses, wandering and in wonder that brings the world to life.

May we all find moments that surprise and delight. Moments when the leaves that we think should be green are white, and suddenly our perspective shifts.

Wildly,

Steven

For more on:
Redwoods
Santa Lucia Fir

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Wild Fire & Gratitude

Pfeiffer Fire in the Wilds of Big Sur


Late on the night of December 15th a fire started in our neighbor hood. After assessing the situation, I decided to stay and see what I could do to protect my property. We are blessed. All of the people that worked with me are safe, all buildings on my property and my neighbors on the non-burned-side of the fire line we held are safe. PG&E restored electricity some days ago. We have telephone restored as of yesterday evening! 

On the fire-side of the line many long-time good friends have lost their homes and more, yet thankfully no lives were lost. My heart goes out to those that have lost their homes and possessions… I know I can only imagine the loss and what their journey to recovery will look like.
The fire burned right up to two structures on my property. The fire spotted over the line many times and in many places. I gave up in both mind and body numerous times on being able to save the line and save structures. Like a miracle, people showed up at just the right moment, the wind shifted at exactly the perfect moments… and not a second too late and more than once. My previous efforts at preparation made a difference at just the right moments, the temperature dropped at just the right moments, seemingly prayers were answered at just the right moments — and by the way, thank you all for your many prayers, well wishes, thoughts, and intentions that were sent our way. 
Countless factors, both known and unknown, came together, a few in my control, but mostly out of my control, to be able to write these words. Never in the whole experience did I feel we were “fighting” the fire — that, I think, is impossible. We were engaged in what feels like an epic dance of sorts with something more humbling and greater than human. The fire was more powerful than anything we humans can will to do as we want. We worked hard at this dance. As the nights and days have blended together it feels more like we just kept responding the moments best we could as the moment unfolded, and unfolded they did. We are blessed that the unfoldings went as they did. 
Nothing quite like feeling my mortality to appreciate this life, my friends and family. For now — gratitude, moments of great exhaustion and sadness, moments of seeing the world alive and fresh, feeling blessed beyond words. Love to each an every one of you. Wishing you all a happy holiday and the very best of the new year.
Steven of Bear Creek, Big Sur

P.S. Here are some links if you want more visuals: 
So, my house gets it's 15 seconds of fame? Check out the link: @ around 2:00 you see them zoom into my home; @ 2:20 you can see me going to meet the first fire engine to show; @ 2:50 the camera pulls back so you can see the whole scope of things and the fingers of fire making runs at my structures. This is about 18 hrs into the fire: http://www.ksbw.com/news/central-california/monterey/aerial-video-big-sur-fire-destroys-15-homes/-/5738820/23515542/-/6a9771/-/index.html 
A few photos I put up on Flickr: Pfeiffer Fire, December, 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Gratefulness

Autumn hike along the coast of Big Sur

Happy Thanks-Giving to all.

Out on a hike just a few days ago I was high above the Pacific Ocean and in between the silence of the mountains could hear the waves crashing below. This simple line from Rumi came to mind and heart.

"When the ocean surges,
don't let me just hear it.
Let it splash inside by chest!"
~ Rumi (from the Essential Rumi)

On this day that we set aside to intentionally give thanks it comes to the surface again and speaks to me of gratefulness for the human animals in my life. All of you who have touched my life... don't let me just see you — may you splash inside my chest! It is in the "splash" that I feel gratitude.

I often quote by friend Bro. David Steindl-Rast.
"It is not happiness that makes us grateful.
It is gratefulness that makes us happy."

Happy Thanksgiving,

Steven

Here are some links for those of you that would like some inspiration and/or are curious about gratefulness:
A Good Day YouTube video with Bro. David
Meal Chant Stew article by Steven on Bro. David's site Gratefulness.org
Want to be happy? TED talk by Bro. David

Monday, November 11, 2013

Zen Life, Wild Life

Abbot Steve Stücky & Steven in the Kaisando at Tassajara

My friend, co-leader, and central abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center has terminal cancer.

Co-leading retreats with Steve at Tassajara has made my life richer and more wakeful. The 2008 fire brought us together. I am blessed to have shared trail time with Steve on the path in and around Tassajara. How lucky I feel to know someone who deeply loves the earth in such an intimate manner. Coulter pines after the fire and Myogen Steve will always carry new meaning… and with them the reminder of life’s wildness and gratitude for our capacity to open our hearts. I hear the bell ring out across the Horse Pasture and attend with wakefulness three breaths and the flood of life pouring in every sense portal. 

With the deepest of gratitude for you — Abbot Steve — two claps, and a deep gassho! 

For those of you that know Steve or have attended retreats with Steve and me at Tassajara here is a link to follow his quickly changing condition: Subtle Eye 

Blessings,
Steven

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Belonging to Earth: Esalen, September 2013

Belonging with laughter... 
(click image to enlarge)

What a wonderful way to complete my Esalen workshop season. Once again, I am filled with hope when I witness the manner in which a diverse group of people can come together and let themselves be so touched by wild nature. The courage I see in our willingness to be intimate, visible, open, and belong is inspiring. "Don't go back to sleep" or to re-frame Rumi, stay awake in your aliveness.

Here are some links of interest:
Photo Set (sorry we did not get a group photo with everyone in it!)
Don't Go Back to Sleep by Rumi
What to Remember When Waking by David Whyte
Poems to Live By (poems I often read)
Trees of the Big Sur
Meal Chant Stew by Steven and recently published on Bro. David Steindl-Rast's Gratefulness.org site


Group member sites:
Erika Gakovich: fineartamerica.com
Mike's Webthresher.com
Eric's first TED talk
Eric's latest TED talk
Bear Creek Studios 
Melanie has a website coming soon. Anyone I missed that wants to be added?

So, dear fellow friends along the path... I invite you to feel your feet on the ground, let the ground feel your feet, align in gravity your hara (belly), an open heart,  a gently in-line head... greeting the world with the whole length of your animal body with senses wide open... and let a full breath and an extended exhale wash over you.

Kneeling to touch earth,
Steven

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Art of Pilgrimage: Green Gulch Zen Center, September 2013

Pilgrims along the path...

Here is a version of the Zen story that Jeremy told after lunch from the "Book of Serenity"

Zen Teacher Earth Treasury asked the monk Dharma Eye as he was leaving the monastery, "Where are you going?"
Dharma Eye said, "I am going on pilgrimage."
Earth Treasury said, "What is the purpose of pilgrimage?"
Dharma Eye said, "I don't know."
Earth Treasury said, "Not knowing is most intimate."
Dharma Eye was greatly awakened at these words.

Heartfelt gratitude for all of you that showed up on the first rainy day of the season! And, while it rained hard while we were in the zendo, we were able to walk through a day that included the raucous celebration of plants celebrating the rain, to open skies and sunshine. A wonderful way to acknowledge the equinox. Thanks to Jeremy Levie for co-leading this event with me and for our gracious assistants. I hope to see you next year if not sooner.

I invite you to pause for a moment... and for the next three breaths... I invite you to open your awareness and attend to whatever arises. May we all live "most imtimately."

Here are some links:

Deep bows to each of you,
Steven

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Big Sur Wilderness Experience: September 2013

BSWE @ Julia Pfeiffer-Burns State Park

It is said that Big Sur is not so much a place as a state of mind. Although I might add, "and a state of being." Shared time along the path in such beauty, sharing stories of life's ride (joys and challenges), and seeing the world alive is a blessing. What an honor to be among such courage, curiosity, and willingness to say "yes" to life and being with all that life might bring.

Here are some links:
Photo Set
What to Remember When Waking by David Whyte
Prayer for the Great Family by Gary Snyder
Bill's Lizstel Photography 
Meal Chant Stew by Steven Harper
Ojai Foundation (where Adam works)

From the Wilds of the Big Sur,

Steven