Part 1: Love, Sweat, Slackline and Tears: A Reflection of Wanderlust, Squaw Valley

For the last week of July, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Wanderlust Festival in Squaw Valley, California, as part of the teaching crew for YogaSlackers.  I was excited to reconnect with my YogaSlacker family, attend yoga classes taught by world renown teachers, spread the joy of slacklining to others, and be away from hustle and bustle of southern California and back into the soul-feeding mountains and forests.
Let me preface this story with some background information on where I’m currently at emotionally, physically, and spiritually so that what follows forms a complete picture (or as close as is possible or now).  For the last couple years, and more urgently in the past few months, I’ve been really working to re-define my values, my actions, and if my actions are in line with my values.  I’ve also been working internally to try to understand a back injury that has kept me away from many physical activities for the past year.  I’ve recently felt an urgency to take another look at all my major commitments and relationships, and to evaluate whether or not they are helping or hindering my spiritual path.
Three years ago, I was interested in my spiritual development, but not to the extent where I would talk openly with others about it, or share it with my significant other, or make decisions based on it.  During the same time period, I’ve been coaxed to slow down, to look inside, to work on my spirit as much as my body.  Unfortunately, I was addicted to the physical world in a way that gave me no patience for the slow, sometimes slogging and turmultuous path of spiritual soul-seeking or healing.  Luckily for me, my spirit is smarter than my concious mind, and in April 2010, after many attempts too subtle to be effective, it created an injury in my physical body severe enough to force me to slow down and take a good look at my life — including who I am and what I need to live a life of sustained joy.
The core group of YogaSlackers, who have been my dear friends for years now, are most well known for their practice of yoga on a slackline, a practice full of both grace and power — a true balance of strength and softness.  It’s often the “shock and awe” of watching these amazing beings on a slackline that draws the onlooker forward to the line themselves.  For this brave soul, the reward is not just learning the practice of the line, but spending time with the people who make up the YogaSlackers.  Here is where real change can happen. What the YogaSlackers are less known for is often more profound and has a longer lasting effect: they have the uncanny and possibly unconcious ability to encourage you to question your life — both the decisions that you’ve made as well as the assumptions behind those decisions.  The result is often a shift in the very value system, the foundation, for your entire life.  The first day, and nearly every encounter since, that I met the two men who eventually founded the YogaSlackers, I’ve felt the need to question what I value, how that’s made me who I am, and how that affects my spirit and my relationships with others.  
So it’s not surprising that after the YogaSlackers inagural teacher training in May, where I spent 10 days with these inspiring folks, that the internal, soul-searching work that I was already doing became more urgent and huge shifts started happening in my life.  Just a few of things that happened between the training and Wanderlust were: giving over half of my closet to charity; bringing my spiritual life and beliefs “out of the closet” and into the forefront of my life, without apology; asking for what I really need in my relationships with others; questioning my marriage; and asking myself honestly what I need in order to fulfill my spiritual dharma on earth.  What I didn’t realize was how the teacher training acted as a catalyst of change for many of my friends as well.  Here I was, feeling isolated and alone in the spiritual growth and turmoil I felt, when many of my new close friends were experiencing similar change in their life.

I was very excited to be a part of the YogaSlacker teachers who were representing at Wanderlust, partly because I love to teach slacklining and I love the energy of big yoga festivals, and partly to see my Slacker family and feel the comfort of being accepted for exactly who I am and loved as part of a group. I rode from San Diego to Long Beach with a lovely friend (we’ll call him Panther) who I hadn’t connected with in a long time.  We spent the night at our other friend’s house (let’s call him Giver), then awoke on Tuesday morning, fueled up with fresh veggies from the garden, and drove up the 395 on the eastern side of the Sierras until we reached South Lake Tahoe.  The drive was fun; full of rest-stop-handstands and arm balances.  The energy of excitement was palpable and radiated from each of us, feeding each other, as we took pictures of our feats of gravity at each rest stop and posted them on Facebook saying, “Here we come!  We can’t wait to see you!”

We spent the night with Giver’s sister, just south of the lake.  In the morning, Panther and I had the time to lake a leisurely stroll next to the river, to talk and connect.  We were blessed by a tiny green frog, a mother duck with about ten tiny ducklings, and rainbow trout swimming upstream.  As we eased into our heartfelt conversation, Panther helped me make the connection between my back injury and the need for my spirit to move forward.  As I mentioned above, I used to connect to the planet with physical exercise — trail running, mountain biking, climbing, etc. — which are all worthy connections, however, they weren’t the type of connections my spirit was craving.  I would marvel at nature’s miracles as a sped by on my machine made of aluminum and rubber, and the forest would scream, “Slow down!  You’re missing it!” And I would always reply, “Next time, another day,” never truly stopping.  At this time, I attracted a partner who found connection in a similar way, and we connected to each other through these physical, heart pumping and endorphin releasing activities.  As healthy as they are, they were like drugs to us — drugs to make us feel better, faster, stronger and under the influence of this natural high, we fell in love.

When injury overtook me, and forced me to slow, I was no longer able to have the same level endorphins that had pumped so regularly through my system.  I wasn’t able to speed through the forest, and my aluminum and rubber machine sat lonely in the garage.  Most of all, I wasn’t able to connect to my love anymore.  In the beginning, I was resistant to this change, because during the times when I would have be out riding or running and connecting to my partner, I was forced to sit with myself, and as I did, I began to listen and pay attention to what I’d been too busy to notice before.  Not only was the forest eager for me to slow down, my spirit was craving for me to pay attention.  “This is IMPORTANT!” it said.  And it took me a long time to realize that.  But as I’ve worked with my spirit’s guidance, I’ve realized that I can connect to nature, to Spirit, to others, in a way that’s different and deeper than ever before.  Unfortunately, my partner is still satisfied to connect through physical means, as he hasn’t had the opportunity or desire for the type of internal growth I’ve done.  Through my injury, he’s offered little in the way of support for the internal work I’ve done, because he’s not sure how to connect to me on that level, and in fact, I’m not sure he understood the connection between the emotional/spiritual and the physical.  He kept asking me to heal my back so that “we could go back to the way things were.”  But I fear that I simply can’t go back — those old ways of connecting hold no power over me anymore and I realize how they detracted from the deeper connection I feel now.

So that morning, at the river, Panther listened to my story and offered, “Maybe your back stays injured because, if it were to heal completely, you’d have no excuse to move forward spiritually; no excuse for NOT going back to the way things were.  Maybe your back stays injured to remind you that you MUST move forward.” And as the words fell on my ears, it was as if my spirit said turned to Panther and hugged him with vigor, because it had been trying to tell me the same thing, unsuccessfully, for months.

I knew, at that moment, that Wanderlust wasn’t going to be all handstands and unicorns for me.  It would also include more of the deep, internal work that my spirit craves yet that throws my emotional and physical bodies into turmoil.  I think I heard my body sigh, “Here we go again. . .”

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