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.
While, 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,
Photo by Patrick Bremser