Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Holidays

With heartfelt appreciation we send our wishes of peace and happiness to you and your loved ones. May the journey ahead bring the finest of your heart’s desires. May we all know the spirit of aliveness and gratitude in every moment.

Love to you all,

Steven Harper & Family

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Time to Saunter... a la Muir

One day as I was resting in the shade Mr. Muir overtook me on the trail and began to chat in that friendly way in which he delights to talk with everyone he meets. I said to him: "Mr. Muir, someone told me you did not approve of the word 'hike.' Is that so?" His blue eyes flashed, and with his Scotch accent he replied: "I don't like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains - not hike!

"Do you know the origin of that word 'saunter?' It's a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, "A la sainte terre,' 'To the Holy Land.' And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not 'hike' through them."
 ~ Story as told by Albert W. Palmer

Holding the open question... How might we make the mountains and wilds where we saunter our "holy land?"


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Way of Nature: Esalen, October 2011

Way of Nature: The Practice of the Wild

What a lovely way to end the season — an honor. As I look back on the photos of our time together I feel blessed.

"May you travel safely,
arrive refreshed,
and live your time away
to its fullest;
return home more enriched,
and free to balance
the gift of days
which call you."
~ John O'Donohue

The Traveler by John O'Donohue

Check out:
Sandy's Bella Capelli Spa
Judy's: Big City Improv

Love to y'all,

Monday, September 26, 2011

Belonging to Earth: Esalen September, 2011

"stay together
learn the flowers
go light"
~ Gary Snyder

As I reflect back on our week, so many strong images and sensations come to mind and body. The crisp clarity of the fresh falling water of Conoga Falls can still be felt stirring inside my body, "...waking the bones. Whispering, Oh, what is that beautiful thing that just happened." 

I appreciated the range of deep silence to dives into the curiosities of the natural world and all it's wonders. Thanks for everyone's willingness to jump into the adventure and the discovery.

Here are some links:
Belonging to Earth Photos Including 14 from Mary Beth
For the Children by Gary Snyder
At Black Water Pond by Mary Oliver
More about Redwoods
More about Santa Lucia Firs

For Fun:
Hoop Therapy: check it out!
Michael Newman Mediation: See if you can recognize the banner drawing?
Anyone else from our group have a link they want to add?

I hope our paths will share the same trail some day soon.


Friday, September 23, 2011

The Art of Pilgrimage: Green Gulch Zen Center 2011

On the path... 

Here is a version of the Zen story that Jeremy told 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.

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 Green Gulch.

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.

Here are links:
Art of Pilgrimage Photos as Slideshow 
The Art of Pilgrimage at Green Gulch Zen Center

Thanks to Jeremy Levie for co-leading this event with me... and to Francisco for his gracious assistance throughout the day.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Big Sur Wilderness Experience: Esalen, August 2011

Alive in the wilds of Big Sur

"The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself."
~ Henry Miller

Here are Big Sur Wilderness Experience links:
BSWE Photo Set
BSWE Photo Slideshow

Here are links to share from our group:
Michael Newman Mediation
Kate Register
Kirsten Mogensen 
Beatrice/Allowing the Light
More to come...

Thanks to Michael, Kai, and each of you that showed up to walk the wild paths of the Sur.


For Fun: Pygmy Redwood Forest
For a Reminder: Big Sur Wilderness Experience
If you care to make a donation to Big Creek Reserve here is a link where you can do so (scroll) part way down the page to donation form): Big Creek Donation

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Art of Pilgrimage: Vallecitos July 2011

Discovery Point looking over Vallecitos Mountain Ranch

"'What is the purpose of pilgrimage?' asked the teacher. 'I don't know,' responded the student. 'Not knowing is most intimate.' said the teacher."

Most intimate is how I would describe our time together as a group and in the wilds around Vallecitos Mountain Ranch. Deep gratitude for how you all showed up so fully to make our time together so special. I especially appreciated the heartfelt presence from and for those in such potent times of transition. Wishing that we each walk with some gems from our pilgrimage to grow and integrate in our daily lives. Thanks to the Vallecitos staff (Carl, Matt, & Leigh) for providing the support for our pilgrimage.

"Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as birdwinds."
~ Rumi

Here are some links that I will continue to add to:
Art of Pilgrimage photo set
Art of Pilgrimage slideshow (full screen)
Don's Art of Pilgrimage photo set
Don Usner's Ventana de Luz website
Steven's workshop website 
Poems to Live By (including Birdwings) 
iThou Meditation House (an online meditation timer, group, instructions)

Warm regards from Santa Fe,

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Body of Wilderness: Esalen July, 2011

Body of Wilderness out in the body of wilderness

What an honor to be with you all and my sister Susan at Esalen in the wilds of the Big Sur. Every year I feel such profound gratitude for each of you that show up so fully, Esalen, Big Creek, the wilds, and the many seen and unseen events that come together to support our experience together in community.

Reminding us all of our "seed" qualities that we are planting & growing in the "Big Workshop" of our lives.

Below find a number of links:
Body of Wilderness Photo Set (Check back for additional photos from other participants)
Body of Wilderness photos as full screen slideshow

At Black Water Pond
Sleeping in the Forest

Susan's website
Steven's website

Big Hugs,

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fathers & Sons: Esalen June, 2011

Father & Sons:
Celebrating Father's Day in the Tradition of the Old Ways

"It is a wise child that knows his own father."
"It is a wise father that knows his own child."
-William Shakespeare

What an honor to spend the Father's Day with you all. I feel it is a rare opportunity to spend time with group of fathers and sons in the shared experience of simply hiking and being together in wild nature. I know my relationship with my father and two sons deepened and is refreshed. For fathers and sons everywhere... may we continue to grow our relationships—alive

Fathers & Sons Photo set
Fathers & Sons Slideshow of photos
Missing the Boat: Someone had asked for a copy of this poem I read the first night.
David's local venture in Big Sur: Gorda Springs
Ben's dance company: LEVYdance
Let me know if I missed anyone's website and I will add it here...?

I encourage us all to follow through with the statement we played with our last session, "What I would like to be responsible for growing in our relationship is... "

With gratitude,

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wild Mind, Zen Mind at Tassajara June, 2011

Near the Wind Caves deep in the Santa Lucia Mountains

"Oh what is that beautiful thing that just happened"  ~Mary Oliver from At Black Water Pond

Thanks to you all for making the journey to Tassajara. This is one of my favorite times of year. I was, and still am, surprised by how late the wildflowers emerged this year. Special thanks to Leslie James for showing up with me once again.

Here are some links:
Wild Mind, Zen Mind photo set
Full screen slideshow of photos 
Tassajara Zen Mountain Center slideshow

The following links are from various conversations I had with individuals in our group
The Art of Pilgrimage at Vallecitos Mountain Ranch, New Mexico
Trees of the Santa Lucia Mountains
2011 Workshops and Retreats 

In one of the discussions in the Kaisando, Leslie used the quote, "Not knowing is most intimate." Here is the origin of this quote. It is 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'm going on pilgrimage."
Earth Treasury asked, "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.

With gratitude...
Two claps, One bow,

Friday, May 20, 2011

Walk on the Wild Side: Esalen, May 2011

 Walk on the Wild Side

"The wild requires that we learn the terrain, nod to all the plants and animals and birds, ford the streams and cross the ridges and tell a good story when we get back home.”
~ Gary Snyder

Here are some links and resources:
The Art of Pilgrimage at Vallecitos Mountain Ranch
John Muir Nature's Visionary by Gretel Ehrlich (my favorite book about Muir)

I sit here in my office in the Big Sur digesting the rich images, sensations, and feelings of our week together. Still lingering is the strong sense of the human community that came together to walk in the wilds and I find myself deeply appreciating the fullness of everyone's "showing up." 

What a blessing. I am grateful have shared time on the path together... and wondering, what good story will you tell when you get back home.

Big Love,

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Simply Wild: Esalen, May 2011

Simply Wild in the wild... with Cone Peak

“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

I am amazed at how a relatively short weekend can be made timeless. Our experience together in Big Sur touched deeply... and, after all, "what else should we have done."

Here are links that you might enjoy:
Simply Wild photo set
Simply Wild slide show
Eske's photo set
Eske's photos as a slide show
The Summer Day by Mary Oliver
Workshop & Retreats

Thanks to you all for such a fruitful time together.

From the wilds of the Sur with love,

P.S. Special thanks to Anna for all she gave and all she gives.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Nature of Zen at Tassajara: April 2011

“Climb Mount Fuji,
O snail,
but slowly, slowly.”
~Kobayashi Issa

There is nothing quite like spring at Tassajara… emergent green, wildflowers, cold creek crossing, the beginning of Guest Season, fresh trails, good food, the lingering wildness of winter.

For more than 30 years I have been making my annual “pilgrimage” over to Tassajara. Each year my relationship to the place and these mountains deepens. I am honored to lead with Abbot Myogen Steve St├╝cky and to have so many people join us this year.

Here are some links of interest and ones mentioned in conversations:
Retreat at Vallecitos Mountain Ranch

Some of you asked about the online meditation site we have been experimenting with... Click on the link and take a look around. There is a meditation timer, virtual candle site, lectures, instructions, a group that sits daily together at 7:00am, and more: iThou Meditation House


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Big Sur Wilderness Experience: April 2011

Where the land and sea meet...

What a way to start off my workshop season. Thank you to each and every one of you. I so dearly appreciated how much heart each of you bought to our circle. 

Here are links I spoke of to explore:
Photo Set of our workshop (photos by Michael C, Arturo P, and me): BSWE photos
Full screen slideshow of the above photos: BSWE Slideshow
Vallecitos Mountain Ranch, New Mexico: The Art of Pilgrimage

"To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:

stay together
learn the flowers
go light"

~Gary Snyder

May you walk in peace,

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Grand Canyon at Sunrise

While in college at Northern Arizona University, the Grand Canyon became one of the first places as an adult I clearly fell in love with the wilds. I would make regular trips up to the canyon to explore different trails.

I first visited the Canyon at 7 years old on a family trip west. At 14 I hiked to the bottom and back in a day with a friend that did all 16 miles barefoot. College days was about exploring. Later I planted trees on the north rim. And much later I worked as a boatman running the full length of the Canyon on the Colorado River on numerous trips.

Returning recently for a short visit reminded me once again how easy it is to fall in love with this open expansive space.

Here's to hoping we all keep falling in love with the wilds.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

2011 Workshop & Retreat Schedule

I am excited to say my entire schedule of workshops and retreats are all set and up on my website. All of the venues where I lead programs are taking reservations. My April workshop is already booked full. I look forward to seeing many friends from past workshops and many new faces this year. 

Here in Big Sur, Spring is in full green and getting greener each day.

Here are some links:


Thursday, March 03, 2011

Human Planet

Click on the image above... and let your self be touched.
We only have one 3rd planet from the sun.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Snow in Big Sur

Esalen Hot Springs with snow in the mountains

Most years we will get more than a few storms that leave snow in the higher elevations of Big Sur (2,500 feet and up), but only a few times in the last 30 years have we seen snow to sea level. Now to be clear, the snow was not sticking, but very wet flakes were making it to sea level in a few locations. Today's "snow storm" was unusual because it was snowing while the sun was out in many locations! 

From the Sur with love,

Monday, January 31, 2011

Spotted Owls

Spotted Owl

We have a Spotted Owl living in the canyon next to our house. I hear it in the evening and early morning when it is still dark. The other day it spent some time out in the open daylight. For a bird that is known to be "shy" and nocturnal, it seemed quite curious on this day. 

The Spotted Owl is often split into three sub-species. While the Northern Spotted Owl and Mexican Spotted Owl are both listed and 'theatended' on the Endangered Species List, the California Spotted Owl is not. It is, however, of considerable interest as it is one measure of a healthy ecosystem. Their preferred habitat appears to be a multilayered forest with some old growth and a dense canopy.

Most of all, each time I hear the call of 'our' local Spotted Owl something deep inside me stirs... a soft smile and easy breath comes — I am remind of the wildness I am surrounded by and feel a bit more alive.

Here is a link where you can listen to the call of the Spotted Owl.