by Nicola Woywitka
"You are moving into a more dangerous period, blessed ones, and we come....to sound the alarm and to help you set forth the plan for your victory in every possible future scenario in which you find yourself." Lanto, a master of the Universal Great White Brotherhood, was sharing with his students a shift occurring in the world that will challenge them "to think and cognize in new areas of awareness and to act in new arenas of activity" in which they might not have been involved in before. He affirmed that "openness of heart and mind and flexibility of consciousness .....is the primary requirement of the hour."
For his students to prepare for the shift occurring, Lanto outlined his plan. He requested The Hearts Center to plan a weekend event this year, specifically devoted to the development of physical and spiritual survival skills among all heartfriends and their families. "This class," he said, "would include the basics of what you would need to live in the wilderness, to cook your own food in nature, to create temporary shelter and to live in challenging environments including in the woods and at high altitudes. It would include wilderness first aid, hiking, backpacking, skiing and snowshoeing skills, orienteering through unknown territories, and, most especially, group dynamics" as well as scouting basics and communication with codes and symbols.
Knowing the importance of fulfilling the assignment for the master, that is how I found myself in the Rocky Mountain foothills late in November driving past a large sign that said, “Center for Outdoor Education” and following a winding, dirt road up to Sheiling Mountain Lodge, an inviting cedar building with large windows. It was five o'clock and I was glad to arrive just before sunset.
Crash Course in Charting Our Way
Our group was warmly welcomed and after an ample dinner, we were given a crash course in orienteering as we used a compass to plan out our hike for the next day. In fact, the whole weekend was a crash course, the instructor informed us, as each one of the topics we wanted to address were a weekend in themselves. Putting down our maps, we then learned how to start the three stoves we would be packing in our backpacks, and finally we prepared the meals for our adventure into the wilderness, which included an overnight sleepout. After a long evening, we gladly retired to the bunk beds and cozied into our sleeping bags.
Morning came too quickly, but we crawled out of our down caves to enjoy scrumptious pancakes smothered in yummy pear butter, a specialty of Cherie, the cook. It was Luke's birthday. We sang to him and a special teepee pancake was presented for the occasion.
Then packing the backpacks began in earnest. Mike, our guide, checked our items advising us on what to take and not to take and made sure we had room for the group items such as pots, stoves, tarps, twine, toilet paper and hand sanitizer packets.
Throwing the packs into the back of the trucks, we hopped in and found ourselves driven to the start-off point. Buckling our packs around us, we headed into the woods. I should have noticed the warning signs right away as we crossed a rickety, old, quarry bridge with no railings that this was not going to be a weekend jaunt, "Jaunt," the dictionary says, is a "short excursion for enjoyment." No, for me, this excursion into the wilds was an ordeal.
As the trek up the mountain went on and on and on, I started asking myself,"Why am I here? I have hiked mountain trails before, I have built fires from scratch, and I have slept overnight on ground sheets and under tarps shielding me from pouring rain. I already have outdoor experience. Why am I here?"
The hike was killing me! My legs were giving out! We went up and up and up only stopping for short bathroom breaks. Now there's something I had not done before...traipsing into the woods and having to shed my ski clothes in 32 degree Fahrenheit weather to use nature's outdoor john. India, in hindsight, was a picnic! And I had never carried a backpack before either, for what turned out to be an eight-hour journey—five hours up the mountain and three hours down the mountain, the last two hours being in the dark using headlights strapped to our foreheads before we arrived at camp.
I did not have the physical strength for what we were doing. No one, not even the guide, knew it was going to be such a long hike. I think he overestimated our overall fitness level. Walking downhill, my knees could no longer take my weight, and I often had to slide on my behind to move down a more treacherous incline. There was no way out. No one could drive into the dense forest and rescue us; a helicopter would cost $2000 to lower a line in between the trees to lift us out. There was no choice but to keep on keeping on.
Navigating a rocky, dried-out riverbed, we finally reached the campsite where a water container had been left for us. Dropping our packs, we quickly dragged in branches to build a warm, inviting fire. We were greatly motivated to enjoy a hot cup of apple cider before cooking our meal. And then came a few glorious moments of stillness to absorb the beauty of fire sparks shooting into the night and the wonder of brilliant starlight high above us, ever so much higher than the towering pine trees. Sleep upon us, we soon bedded down in our billion-star hotel.
The next morning I woke up moaning…and I continued moaning. I moaned when I sat up, I moaned when I put on my vest, I moaned when I hauled myself out of the sleeping bag, I moaned when I bent over to tie my boots...and then...I caught myself moaning. I snapped out of my mood just as I had done the day before and consciously accessed my joy flame. "Do you know how to do the breath of joy?" the yoga teacher in me asked everyone. Encouraged to demonstrate, I swung my arms in several directions before bending over and exclaiming "Ha!" Since then I have discovered that Shiva also likes to do the breath of joy—"Ha!...Ha!...Ha!...Ha!...Ha!"
The Alchemy of Inner Talk
The day before I had realized that if I were to enjoy the wilderness weekend, I would have to take command of my inner talk. There was a specific moment when I determined that my dialogue was not going to be one of agonizing about when it would all be over. I decided that if I had to spend all day keeping my eyes on the ground so that I didn't injure myself, then I might as well find out what was there to enjoy. And so I did.
Despite snow on the ground in some places, we passed over the softest cushion Mother Nature has ever made—green moss billowing over the forest floor forever. It took 50,000 years to create. Sprinkled on top were brown needles and silver-green accents of little, round tufts of spruce. The air roared with quiet. Could this be the “soundless sound”?
The third day was less strenuous. We scooted down an incline supported by a rope, we built shelters—a lean-to from branches and another from tarps, and we watched Mike tie different kinds of knots. I even used a civilized outhouse before we made our way out of the trees toward the waiting vehicles.
Ordeal or Odyssey?
The trip was over. Back at the lodge, we showered, ate and de-briefed with our guide, sharing our thoughts, our experiences, and our challenges.
I still contemplate, "Why did I go on this journey, really?" I think it will take time for its full impact to sink in. What cannot be missed however is the symbolic comparison of the physical journey climbing the mountain with the spiritual journey. Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov* asks, "Of what use is it to attempt to conquer mountain peaks...if we have not understood that the ascent of physical mountains is a metaphor for the ascent of spiritual mountains? To climb a mountain is to gradually free ourselves of all that encumbers us and weighs us down, until we reach silence, purity, light and immensity and feel the divine order entering into us."
Yes, that's it! That's what I felt on the mountain—silence, purity, light, immensity, divine order—and now it's part of me to access, whenever I like, in my upward journey home.
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
*Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov: A Bulgarian master and teacher whose books and daily meditations are often read during The Hearts Center’s morning rosary. To order books written by Aivanhov go to http://www.prosveta.com.