Go For Your Dreams

Check out one of Balanced Rock’s founders, Eliza Kerr on a Mother-Daughter Climb of El Capitan’s Zodiac route!

Eliza and Calliope (age 13) enjoying a selfie over one thousand feet off the ground.

Eliza, Calliope, and friend Miranda Oakley spent three days and nights climbing this iconic piece of granite. Experiencing all sorts of weather, physical and mental challenges these women are inspirations to us all. Their achievement encourages us to go for our dreams!

Tips to success shared by Eliza and Calliope:
1. Work hard and prepare as best as possible
2. Seek support from friends and mentors
3. Surrender! Have faith and trust that it will all work out the way it’s meant to be 🙂

Balanced Rock was once a dream and is now a thriving non-profit organization. Perhaps you dream of connecting with yourself and others in the wilderness, pushing new frontiers of your mental, physical, and/or emotional stamina? Or maybe you dream of becoming a yoga instructor and serving your community? If so join us for a course this year and manifest your dreams into reality!

Self Care for Accepting Differences: One Woman’s Current Journey

“Accepting differences” may not seem like a typical “self care” topic. But I struggle with “accepting differences” and I am certain I am not the only one.

In the past few weeks, I have been considering what the key elements are for me in “accepting differences” and they seem to be experience, education and expectations. Below is a description of my current journey as I examine how to address this aspect of my self-care.

When I hold a particular opinion, value or belief that differs from someone else, I often feel a strong emotional reaction when I see or hear their perspectives. Of course, I feel like they are wrong, even if I do not say anything. But that tension or anxiety I feel in my body is an indication from my inner guidance system that I am not in a mode of “accepting differences”… at least that is my belief. It is telling me to allow them to have their perspectives without me needing to get emotionally wrapped up in their opinions. Part of the struggle is determining when “self care” also includes speaking up or taking action, because just “accepting differences” does not feel like the right thing for me to do.

Water analogies speak to my soul and I heard this one somewhere along my path. I know I am paying attention to my inner guidance system when any thought or action feels like I am floating downstream. When I am not struggling against the current, I have my feet up and am relaxed letting life unfold effortlessly. When I feel like I am swimming upstream, against the current, I am working hard and wearing myself out. Then I am usually not listening to my inner guidance system and instead trying to control an outcome or situation.

If I decide to take an action or speak up, even if this varies from someone else’s opinion or perspective, it needs to feel right…as if I am floating downstream.

As I write this blog, it is January 2017. Donald Trump has been sworn into office as the nation’s 45th President. The divisions within the country seem to be wide chasms of fear of the unknown for our future.

I have very different values and opinions from most of my family members in the middle of the country. During the brief time we spend together, we choose not to get into big debates over politics or religion, but prefer to focus on our love for each other. However, I still struggle with accepting their differences…and they probably struggle accepting mine, as well.

Recently I read Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman”, the sequel to her award winning novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird”. I found this book riveting though it was a sad reminder to me of the struggles and inequities that continue to plague African American people, in particular, but many races and nationalities, as well. As I see it, that is the biggest difference between most of my Midwest family members and me. I have lived in the San Francisco Bay Area now for over half of my life and that experience has profoundly impacted my perspective. I have seen racism and personally experienced sexism. I KNOW it exists AND I know that as a white woman, I do not experience the “isms” very much. Which is also why I was in total shock when Donald Trump was elected President. The “isms” have not changed that much in this country since Harper Lee’s second novel, which was set in the late 1950’s. Clearly this is not nearly as surprising to the African American community.

What if I had stayed in the Midwest and/or had not worked in social services? How would my view of the United States and world politics be different than it is today? Would I hold more similar perspectives as my other family members do? Just how much has the experience of living in the Bay Area for over half of my life influenced me?

As I write this blog, I am flying back from my first trip to Africa. I had an amazing two weeks in Tanzania exploring the Serengeti on a safari followed by a visit to the spice island of Zanzibar. The most impactful days for me were when we visited a traditional Maasai village in Nayoibi, which is in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Our guide was born and raised in that village. He had the benefit of a sponsor which allowed him to get a secondary and university education. He now lives in the States, but communicates weekly with his family. He visits each year to assist his family, as well as focusing on helping young girls to access an education. The conditions his family lives in are definitely very primitive, by standards in the United States. Since his family lives in a Conservation Area, they are not even allowed to grow vegetable gardens. So this makes it very difficult to feed the families.

Our guide is passionate about sponsoring more girls to get a secondary education so they have options to broaden their perspectives and gain new experiences. I struggled with whether or not to personally support them because who am I? What right do I have to impose my opinions and beliefs on anyone else, let alone a culture that has survived for centuries? But after further conversations, I learned that if given the choice and opportunity, many of the parents of this village desired their children, even their girls, to get an education…as long as they stayed in touch and supported their families, like our guide does. They see in him the benefits and advantages of getting an education.

This was a powerful example for me of how education can be beneficial to “accepting differences”. It was a huge benefit to our guide and now he is sharing that opportunity with others from his culture. If a mother can see how education may benefit her daughter, then I am open to supporting that desire. Not in a judgmental way, but in a supportive way.

So far, in this blog, I have talked about experience and education as being important elements in my journey of learning to “accept differences” as it relates to my own self-care. The third element that frequently comes up for me is expectation. That is in the context of what I “expect” of or from others.

I do not get upset if I do not have any expectations of another person. But when I do have expectations, then I often feel stress or anxiety if they are not meeting them. Then I have to consciously examine what that is about, what purpose it may be serving, and whether there is anything I can do about it? By noticing that I am swimming upstream and fighting the current energetically, plus mindfully considering these questions, it helps me determine if there is an action I am to take or if it is time to let it go. Letting go is often more difficult than taking action. I have to seriously consider how the stress or anxiety is affecting my health and wellbeing, as this directly correlates to my “self-care”.

Of course, the hardest aspects of expectations to deal with for me, is when I realize someone else has an expectation that I have not agreed to and may not be living up to. At such times, the only thing I have found I can do, in order to release that stress, is to learn to allow that person to be disappointed or upset. To acknowledge it is OK to let them have that experience, as that is their choice. Others might call this acknowledging what is “their stuff”, not mine. But it is still hard to let go of, especially for those of us who could be referred to as “people pleasers”.

Experience, education & expectations seem to be the 3-legged stool that have helped to support me in these past few weeks as I have been continuing this journey to “accept differences”. Of course, like the yoga or meditation that Balanced Rock incorporates into our programs, this is a daily practice. I am alert to it when I feel the tension or anxiety in my body, when I am struggling to move up stream, energetically.

When I take the time to examine what is going on in my spirit, mind and/or body, then I can consider the appropriate steps to address it, with the goal of shifting the energy to be more of consciously floating down stream. Only in this regular practice have I been learning to “accept differences” in order to be mindful of the impact on my own self-care.

Marcia Hodges
Balanced Rock Participant & Board Member

Intentions Springing Forth

Vernal Equinox is such a special transitional time for transformation and new growth! We have set our intentions, planting seeds in the fertile darkness of winter and perhaps we can celebrate their emergence and initial evolution. As we come to close the first quarter of the year we are reflecting on the intentions shared with us by the greater Balanced Rock community.

In our first e-newsletter of 2017 we asked the following:
We want to know what you intend to manifest in 2017!
Please write to us and we will compile our collective intentions in blog format to share with the community. By sharing our deepest hopes and dreams with each other we create the space for them to grow into reality!

Definition of Intention

  • a determination to act in a certain way : resolve
  • import, significance
  • what one intends to do or bring about : the object for which a prayer, mass, or pious act is offered
  • a process or manner of healing of wounds
  • a concept considered as the product of attention directed to an object of knowledge

In 2017 I intend to improve my health and and well being with a more holistic and healing approach. My intention is to eat a healthy diet, exercise more in the outdoors, get adequate sleep, and spend more time taking care of myself while also nurturing the one true love of my life.
Deana Barone

In 2017 I want to focus on daily study, discipline and follow through.
Heather Sullivan

Same as 2016 🙂
BRF Donor

My intention is to be the best mom I can be while also caring for myself, my relationship, and my environment. I might be able to word my intention better, or more clearly, or use more accurate descriptors, but I wanted to at least get out a rough draft … start with something instead of striving for perfection and therefore sending nothing!
Nicole Benter

My intention is to overcome my mom’s death and protect the vulnerable and downtrodden to honor her memory.
David Gregory

My intentions for 2017 are:
– To stand up for what is right, including the basic and civil rights of all humans
– To not only feel, think, and believe, but to act
– To advocate for any person who has less power and privilege than I have

Sarah Ottley

Eliza Kerr

In 2017 I want to honor my intuition more fully.
Paula Wild

All images: Patrick Bremser Photography

Savasana Integration

The following gems are from each of the 7 classes offered by our incredible line up of Balanced Rock instructors at the 2016 Yoga Jambalaya. This year’s event was gracefully facilitated by Eliza Kerr, Brenda Lear, Paula Wild, Heather Sullivan, Dennis Eagan and Jana Kilgore; sharing their wisdom and love of mindfulness practices. During our final bonus thirty minute Savasana, Heather Sullivan shared these aloud with the intention of helping us to fully integrate the deep messages of the day. 

Version 2



Remember our true nature as spirit


Practice again and again and again


Practice to Remember


Gayatri Mantra


Listen as deeply as you can


Doesn’t matter how far you bend your spine, it matters that you bend your spine


Feels totally delicious in our bodies


Love More Stress Less


Only place to go is inside and focus on breath


Practice so it is fun and easy


Digest Juicy Earthy


Hands in front of our hearts in Gratitude


Let all teaching settle into spots in the body


Rolling Aums


Represent our connection to source and everyone and everything


Nourished on every level


The eyes go where the mind follows


Dristi: Vision, point of view, intelligence, wisdom


All about relationship


Propioception: sense of your body in space


Let your vision follow your heart




The eye with which I see god is the same eye with which god sees me.


Amorphous love bubble


Four of the 12 cranial nerves are for vision alone


Relationship with planet


Prayer to sun, enlightening the world


Slow down


Om mata, om kali, durga devi namo namaha


Marvels of architectural engineering in the feet, 208 bones


If we slow down enough we can allow breath to lead


Listen as deeply and closely as you can


Gayatri Mantra


Recapped and shared in final class by Heather Sullivan & Paula Wild


A poem by Heather Sullivan
This altar is for you…Michael, for you Dad, for you Brother, and also you Brother, and you uncle and to you my friend and mentor.
The veil to the spirit world is thin now and I remember you, my little niece.
And I think of all the mothers, sisters, aunties, and daughters and cousins and sons, and wives and husbands who have passed as well. And Grandmothers and Grandfathers, this candle is lit and extinguished for you.

This altar is for all of you.

Knowing you has brought me gifts, the greatest gifts of life.  True love.

And during these darkening days
as leaves fall from the trees and the sun dips closer to the horizon
I offer flowers, and food, a candle, and remnants

I am so grateful to have known you
to have been touched by you
and loved by you.

You are part of me and live on with me.
Until I too slip to the other side of the veil.

During this season, if you feel called to…consider making an altar or offering for your loved ones who have left this physical world.

Fall Balance in a Bowl

O Lord was it a glorious day when a friend shared the revolutionary idea with me that oatmeal didn’t need to be sweet! My mornings went from a syrupy mas o menos to a savory delight.


Oatmeal is a perfect grain to enjoy for fall, as it is Vata season. The qualities of Vata are cold, dry, light mobile and erratic. When we are out of balance in Vata we can experience symptoms such as constipation, anxiety, fear, indecision, lower back pain and dry skin…to name a few! Oatmeal is warm, moist, demulcent and sweet. It is naturally a sweet grain. Sweet, salty and sour tastes balance Vata. A warm bowl of oatmeal is an anecdote to Vata imbalance!If whole groats are used, they are especially grounding as they have the most earth element of any form of oats. Because whole groats take longer to cook, I’ve found using a pressure cooker or a crock pot over night great ways to keep breakfast prep efficient. In a pressure cooker, the ratio of water to groat is a little less that 3:1.

Try this for a delicious bowl of groats: add a generous spoonful or two of ghee, nutritional yeast, some black pepper and soy sauce. Ghee is a digestive stimulant so it stokes your digestion, allowing you to digest and reap the benefit of a healthy fat during a dry fall and winter. Don’t be shy about adding plenty of ghee unless you have a Kapha imbalance, in which case, use only minimal fats. If you don’t have aggravated Pitta, add some hot sauce and a fried egg a top. Egg yolks and peppers increase pitta. Some of us may have excess pitta and still need to “cool down” after a hot summer and should refrain from the yolk and hot sauce.

When we eat and how we eat is as important as what we eat.

Eating meals at the same time daily is especially important for keeping Vata in balance. Routine balances the erratic nature of Vata. Eating at the same time also helps your digestion function optimally.

Chewing our food well and eating slowly and mindfully aids in the first stage of digestion when food mixes with saliva. This is helpful for Vatas who tend to have finicky digestion, sometimes leading to constipation and accumulated toxins.

And as we know, but often need to remind ourselves: gratitude is the attitude! Preparing our food with love and taking a moment to appreciate the blessings of our meal and life go a long way. Praise the Lord for savory oatmeal:)

For more Ayurvedic tips and recipes, including information on seasonal cleanses, visit www.elizakerr.com


Lessons of Self-Reliance and Trust

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t experience butterflies in my stomach before my first solo backpacking trip. Though I’d thoroughly packed my gear and outlined my route, uncertainty remained a major element of the experience. Would I be able to light my stove properly? Did I have enough food? What would I do if I got injured? These questions popped into my mind from time to time, as I prepared and even once I began hiking down the trail.

BR10Lakes714-55-X2While, in photos, Yosemite appears to be a fantasy land of sweet summits and meadows, in actuality, the Land has a way of reminding you to respect the wild in wilderness. Gentle and fierce. Close and distant. Merciful and merciless. Yosemite embodies the full spectrum of experience, and it’s beautiful, even when you’re lost in the middle of the woods, panicked and alone. I’ll never forget the rush of gratitude I felt once I found the trail again, or the pride I felt whenever I located myself on my map thereafter.

Getting lost was one of many challenges that arose during that journey, and I wouldn’t trade a single one of those experiences for the world. In those times of raw emotion and pure intuition, I truly came face-to-face with my fears. Those experiences were cleansing and regenerative, spurring the release of a whole world of self-doubt in order to create space for surrender to fill. Searching for guidance, I gazed up into the vast sky and opened my heart. There was no other choice but to trust. I learned to trust myself, and in growing to trust myself, I grew to trust in the wilderness, in the Divine Purpose, and in the Guidance of the land. My passion for the outdoors continued to grow, and along with it, my passion for the important work that Balanced Rock performs. The wilderness is the best teacher of radical self-reliance that I’ve ever encountered, and Balanced Rock provides an amazing service to the world in connecting people with nature’s wisdom.

Interning with Balanced Rock empowered me far beyond my expectations, because those lessons I learned about calm problem-solving and confident independence extended far beyond my journey alone in the woods. Whether I was teaching yoga classes to the community, leading a day hike up a mountain, or picking up 19 bear cans from the Yosemite Valley Wilderness Center, on Balanced Rock missions, I was constantly pushed out of my comfort zone into the realm of the unfamiliar. Most cases involved not only personal self-reliance, but the knowledge that a whole group of people were counting on me to work efficiently and accurately.

Throughout the course of the summer, I began to internalize the yogic attitude that I observed from my mentors. Despite any unforeseen circumstance, each member of the Balanced Rock staff effortlessly embodies virtues of adaptability, positivity, and grace that permeate into all they do. I’ve never been so inspired by a group of people, who display mastery of surrender and trust.

It was primarily through observation that I learned about the nature of guiding. As Yogi Bhajan once said:

“Trust only comes when you trust yourself. When you trust your dignity, you will always be dignified. When you trust your love, you will always be lovable. When you trust your beauty, you will always be beautiful. When you trust your greatness, you will always be great.”

Nurturing seeds of trust and stability within yourself creates a landscape much like the forests of Yosemite. Wildflowers start to grow out of your heart and your eyes, and people can see the beauty of your garden of virtues. Even when a fierce wind passes through your meadow, the trees stand tall and sturdy and provide shelter for others to rest upon. It all begins with developing trust in yourself, and once you build that foundation, others can trust you too. To open up a safe, healing space, you must cultivate the garden of your mind, body, and spirit.

Thanks for an amazing summer,

Rachel Peterson

Photo by Patrick Bremser

Ikigai: what lights you up?

The core curriculum for the upcoming Balanced Rock, Living the Dream retreat can be summed up in the Japanese concept Ikigai. I was so happy to have a social media post from my friend, Jamie Anderson, to put words to the curriculum I was in the process of writing! According to Japanese thought, everyone has an Ikigai, and it is essentially ‘a reason to get up in the morning’ or a reason to enjoy life.

Ikigai is essentially ‘a reason to get up in the morning’ or a reason to enjoy life.

The Wikipedia definition describes the terms as indicating the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile. Secondly, the word is used to refer to mental and spiritual circumstances under which individuals feel that their lives are valuable. It’s not necessarily linked to one’s economic status or the present state of society. Even if a person feels that the present is dark, but they have a goal in mind, they may feel ikigai. Behaviours that make us feel ikigai are not actions which we are forced to take—these are natural and spontaneous actions.


On our course this August, we will be delving into this concept during our hikes to high alpine lakes and domes, in our journals and in some facilitated discussion around the campfire.

We will explore this concept:

  • Have you found your ikigai or want to search for your ikigai?

And in terms of the work, hobbies, and things we spend time doing:

  • Do you love it?
  • Does the world need it?
  • Are you good at it?
  • Can you be paid for it?

How can you live with purpose today, to live a longer and healthier life? (ie: How can you live your dream?)

I feel lucky to have found my Ikigai through my work with Balanced Rock. When I graduated high school, I knew I wanted to create an education center that involved deep connection to experiencing nature, spiritual exploration and growth, community building, and creative expression. I continued to follow a varied path of mountain guiding and rambling, restaurant and service industry work, non-profit management, environmental education, doula, massage therapy, yoga instruction, housecleaning, beekeeping, and farm work to name only some.  Sometimes my jobs seemed “random” but always taught me lessons and new skills and provided contentment and new opportunity.  I love learning and teaching and sharing and taking risks and entrepreneurship. I love healing modalities. I love variety and non-traditional work schedules. I love following the rythym of nature and seasons.   Balanced Rock is and has been this for me. It is why I get out of bed in the morning. I feel happy and life meaning from this work. I am very grateful for this.

We would love to hear thoughts on how you are now living your dreams. Please comment on our blog!

And if you would like to brainstorm more, join us for Living the Dream Retreat August 12th-14th.

Here’s to finding daily happiness and purpose!

Heather Sullivan

Managing Director & Co-Founder of Balanced Rock


Yoga Saves the World

This is an essay written by Brandi Bosch, a recent graduate of Balanced Rock’s WildYoga Teacher Training. She is a great new yoga teacher with a brilliant practice, and unconditional love for her students. Brandi’s essay is a powerful statement of how yoga can be instrumental in saving the world!


Image: http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/earth-from-space-15-amazing-things-in-15-years

Changing the world begins with returning to or establishing an inner state of peace, contentedness, and balance – just as nature is responding to a feedback loop to reach a state of equilibrium in an ever-changing, ever-disrupted global climate.

There is a deep connection between the practice of yoga (in its entirety) and the various ecosystems we live in (Eagan, 2011). In the article Yoga, Personal Transformation, and Global Sustainability, Dr. B.K. Bose reminds us that “the keys to global sustainability lay in aligning our thoughts and actions so they are congruent with our long-term interests as a species and life on Earth while requiring us to delay our need for immediate gratification. Yoga is a practice that makes this possible”. This work, to live conscientiously and in harmony with our world, is life long and it takes effort. Immediate gratification may temp us initially to take an “easy” approach to the complexities of existence, but when we look deeply with mindfulness, we understand that growth and sustainability cannot be immediate – it takes perseverance.

Looking carefully at the eight-limbs of yoga, specifically at the yamas and niyamas, we are given a basic blueprint for living a whole-hearted life, one which nurtures the body/mind/spirit connection and can also bring about a sense of peace when faced with the myriad challenges and stressors present day to day. It is a practice. A practice which requires patience and mindfulness. It is a practice that aligns our inner-space with the world around us.

The practice of yoga can act as a catalyst for deepening our understanding of the grand connection with all of life and foster participation in a sustainable community for the present and future generations.

The practice of yoga can act as a catalyst for deepening our understanding of the grand connection with all of life and foster participation in a sustainable community for the present and future generations. I believe this to be true. I also believe it to be some of the hardest work one will ever encounter. Once you begin to notice subtle changes in yourself, areas of stagnancy or pain, rather than running or burying the burden, yoga helps you to settle into the discomfort with an open heart, mind, and whole-hearted compassion – just as we must look at environmental dilemmas with a goal of sustaining and working toward equilibrium.

Whether or not I opt to teach yoga, it has slowly been changing my mental and emotional processes, and allowing me to see the areas in which I am imbalanced. Often I do not fully understand how to work with these imbalances, but the goal is clear. Each time I mindfully practice, deep healing is taking place. And in turn, the stage is set to heal the planet.


2015-2016 WildYoga Graduates and Instructors


Summer Rituals

Summer is here! The “farewell to spring” clarkia wildflowers are in full bloom, temperatures are rising, and the Merced river is running beautifully with snowmelt from the High Sierra. For Balanced Rock this is a special time of excitement as we prepare to shift our focus from yoga in the foothills to backpacking and practicing in the subalpine landscapes of Yosemite. journal

One of my favorite summer rituals discovered through Balanced Rock is writing a letter to myself. Every Balanced Rock course shares this powerful activity in a facilitated fashion. After spending a few days out in the wilderness reconnecting with our true nature we are ripe for clarity and, as my British husband says; “having a word with ourselves”. We all take a few hours to be silent and reflect, writing or drawing whatever comes to us and sealing it in a self-addressed envelope. Six to twelve months later Balanced Rock sends out the precious letter and it arrives at your home. Each and every one of the letters I’ve received from myself has been a gift. An encouragement and a reminder of the freedom and power I feel when out in the wilderness.

I’m honored to share a poem that recently arrived in my mailbox, which I wrote to myself last year near Ten Lakes. It is a reflection of who I am in connection to the earth. I hope you enjoy it, and that it inspires you to join us in transformative inner work this year in Yosemite’s wilderness!Blogsubmission_Poem

Blogsubmission_Poem *Kanistha mudra is a hand gesture that deepens our sense of embodiment and connection to the Earth.  It activates the qualities of stability, firmness and support. You can try it along with the words; the Living Earth pulses within my being, infusing me with all of its essential qualities. (Reference: Mudras for Healing and Transformation by Joseph and Lilian LePage). 

The Living Earth pulses within my being, infusing me with all of its essential qualities.

Written by Paula Wild