What I'm Writing About
© Copyright 2011-2016
All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Bobbi Jean Ewing.
reflections and insight into my healing, transformation, and journey of the heart <3
I recently spent a week alone in the woods. Someone asked me afterward if it was nice to get away. I hesitated in response. Away?! I never left. Here’s the thing…our mind goes with us EVERYWHERE we go!
When I first envisioned this experience many months ago I somehow thought it’d be peaceful and nurturing. I’d get to soak up all the goodness and become more attuned to the magical subtleties of nature. And then I began to think of it as my version of a meditation retreat…I’d be alone in the woods, just me and my thoughts…what a great way to stretch myself, right?
Before I even left town, the paranoid thoughts started. The first and best of my paranoid thoughts: “What if my battery watch dies and I don’t know what time it is.” This thought and others like it told me how it was really going to go down: I was going to encounter my mind and my fears.
I went down to southern Oregon, back to my stomping grounds, a long haul from Seattle where I now live, to the Chewaucan River, a place my dad loved to camp and fish and where he took me and my siblings in my youth. I wanted to see and experience a place my dad loved from my adult and more awakened eyes, to connect with the memory and spirit of my dad and my brother, who have both passed from this life.
I drove into the Gearhart Wilderness on a Monday and let me just tell you…this part of Oregon is RE-MOTE: very few people, very few cars on the road, and ZERO cell phone reception. As I drove deeper into the wilderness I could feel myself becoming more and more afraid, mostly fears about getting stranded. The thought of waiting alongside the road and trusting a stranger to help me seemed rather scary.
I arrived at Happy Camp in the late afternoon. There was only one other camper in the campground, all the way on the other side. He was a fly fisherman – my sense was that he was safe. I had trouble sleeping that night, even woke myself up by the sound of my own snore after about an hour of sleep. I don’t know what I was afraid of exactly (animals? humans?), I was just afraid.
By the light of day the next morning, I started to settle in and felt less afraid. Somehow I think I even felt comforted knowing there was another human at the opposite end of the campground, yet after a while something in me began to wonder about that. I took a walk around the campground and discovered that the other camper was gone; he’d packed up and left sometime in the early morning hours. I was all alone! It’s what I wanted, or did I?
I spent three nights at Happy Camp. I found the name ironic cuz I didn’t feel all that happy there. My mind was agitated and I was skittish and easily spooked. For instance, on my first full day in the woods I took a walk along the road and crossed over the national forest boundary into public land and came across a deserted cattle corral. Its emptiness was haunting and my mind started playing tricks on me. My mind saw a man in what was likely a wooden fence post. I had a flash back of being flashed while walking alone on a road outside the city walls of Cortona, Italy and with a racing heart I bolted, looking over my shoulder until I made it safe back to camp.
On my second full day in the woods I ventured away from camp. Should I tell you how I was afraid of leaving stuff out at my campsite, like my stove, for fear that my campsite would be raided and my stuff stolen? Yep, I had that thought. My plan was to hike the Blue Lake trail that had been recommended to me by the gal at the forest ranger station in Bly. It looked easy enough to get to the trailhead…get on road 3372 which, accordingly to the map, was across main road 34 and just opposite the road to Happy Camp.
I got on a road I hoped was Forest Service road 3372, though I didn’t see one of those brown signs with numbers. I was supposed to drive 9 miles up this road before turning onto another road leading 2 more miles to the trailhead. A more lush forest turned to a sparse and “unfriendly” lodge-pole pine forest. No one knew where I was. I didn’t for sure know where I was or if I was on the right road. I started to feel vulnerable and shaky inside. I missed my friends. I wanted to hold someone’s hand. I felt total relief when I finally saw the bleached out sign pointing to the trailhead and the brown sign confirming, YES, I was on road 3372.
I got to the trailhead and I was THE ONLY one there. This was a first for me. I’ve *never* been THE ONLY one on a trail before. I quietly gave myself a little pep talk…“you hike all the time, you have done plenty of solo hikes, you’ll be fine.” I crawled over lots of fallen trees (known as dead fall) and did a good job of finding the trail again when it was temporarily covered by dead fall. Cat scat was scattered on the trail so I knew the cats were around. I was hiking with bear spray, my protection against the wildcats. As you can imagine, a potential encounter with a wildcat was another one of my fears.
I ate lunch on a rock on the lake shore, mosquitoes biting me by the dozens. I heard something that sounded like an explosion somewhere on the other side of the lake. My mind instantly thought, “someone is using dynamite to blow stuff up,” and then I remembered I was THE ONLY one up here. Nothing was being blown up… I’d just heard a tree fall in the woods. You want to hear something ironic? With all the dead fall and hearing a tree fall, I wasn’t even afraid of a tree falling on me!
Day 3 alone in the woods. I slept pretty well the night before, the best so far. My nervous system finally started to quiet down. I packed up camp. I was moving on to the Chewaucan River, my ultimate destination, but first I would hike up to “The Palisades” and “The Dome,” the crown jewels of the Gearhart Wilderness. I get in my car, start driving down the very bumpy and dusty dirt road and my car is squealing like crazy. The thing I was afraid of most – car trouble – was becoming my reality.
I made it to the trailhead. My car squealed the entire 30 minute drive there. I kept hoping and praying the squealing would stop, but it didn’t. My mind thought of all the things it could be…a belt about to slip off, a wheel bearing that was going to fall apart. I started hiking, doing my best to put my car troubles out of my mind and put my attention on my hike. That didn’t happen. Here I was on this incredibly stunning hike and my mind was thinking ahead to the possibility of breaking down in the south central Oregon and being stranded in some small town over the long weekend until my car could be fixed.
I prayed and prayed some more. I sat down on a rock and had a short sob. I prayed again to all Divine beings – God, Father Sky, Mother Earth, my spirit allies, angels, fairies, my ancestors. I prayed to my dad, an exceedingly resourceful mechanic who has passed to the heavens, “please dad, please, please fix my car with your Divine hands.”
Several hours later I returned to my car. As I made my way down the *super* bumpy dirt road back to paved main road 34 I didn’t hear any squealing. I had a choice – turn left and head toward the Chewaucan River or turn right and head back to Klamath Falls and take my car to a mechanic before the weekend began. I turned left. The deal: if my car squealed in the next 15 minutes I would turn around. About 5 minutes down the road I heard the hint of a squeal. I immediately made a U turn.
I drove about 30 minutes down the mountain and out of the wilderness back toward Bly. Something didn’t look right. I had turned the wrong way. I was going to have to turn around and go right past the entrance to the Gearhart Wilderness. My car had been doing fine for the last 30 minutes. I slowed down and listened. No squealing. As I approached the entrance, I made a split second decision: “I’m going back in! I’m not going to give up my vacation cuz I might break down and I might not make it back to work the day I was scheduled to return.” I made it all the Chewaucan River and parked my car for the next 3 days.
The river valley was gorgeous – sage and ponderosa pine country. I felt a connection to my dad, to this place he loved. I’d like to say I was relaxed and filled with peace once I arrived. Not so. I was a wound up ball of fear. I was paranoid my fire was going to spread, that the forest would catch on fire. I woke myself up again from the sound of my own snore and was awake most of the night. In the sounds of the river my mind heard fire and I was paranoid the forest was going to burn down and that I’d be burned to a crisp in my tent.
The next day, July 1, was my deceased brother’s 46th birthday. I walked down the road in search of the campground my dad had taken me and my brother in my teens and where me and my brother fly fished together. As I approached Jones Crossing campground, I knew in my heart and belly, “this is the place.” I said to myself more than once, “dad sure knew how to pick good spots.”
I sat on the river bank and talked and prayed to my brother, a lump in my throat and tears streaming down my face, “Happy Birthday, Doug!” What a beautiful thing to be in the exact spot we shared memories together on his birthday. I made it to the Chewaucan and not just that, I made it there for my brother’s birthday, something that had only vaguely occurred to me in my plans leading up to this adventure. I lay down on the river bank under a blanket of elms and took a nap and FINALLY relaxed.
That week camping alone in the woods I got up close and personal with my FEARS and I’ve never prayed so earnestly in my life. I saw how powerful the mind is. We can attract the good and we can attract the bad. A mind that is humming with fear becomes a very strong magnet and what we fear most can become our reality. I pulled myself out of the fear and turned my vibration around through prayerful surrender and by cultivating a whole lotta faith and trust.
I had a meditation retreat like experience and what’s more, I had to be with all that arose within and survive (at the same time)!
As for my desire to tune in to the magical subtleties of nature, it happened. As I was packing up that last day a bug buzzed into my left ear. Still a little skittish from being molested by mosquitoes, I swatted it away. I immediately stopped myself. “Oh wait, that might have been a fairy delivering a message.” The sound of the bug was still in my ear. I paused and tuned in, “if I had to translate that sound into words, what would they be?” I heard and knew simultaneously: “everything’s going to be ok” and it was.
I made it back to Seattle just fine. My check engine light did come on as I drove over the scary river overpass in Portland after I had a paranoid thought of breaking down right there and the second after I said out loud, “I’m gonna be honest – this part of the freeway scares me.” There it was again, my powerful mind!
Both my dad and my brother live on in the heavens. It’s through experiences like these and walking in the memory of their footsteps that I touch their spirits.
I recently hosted 5 dudes – 5 MEN – for 5 ePic days and nights. Two dudes became four and then finally five. The population of my house exploded from one to six. It took me an entire week, 7 full days and nights, to recover from that adventure.
How did this all come about? You all remember my friend, Rosh, right? I met Rosh in Maui at the start of 2014 on a yoga retreat with Hana Maui Yoga Institute. On the drive out to Hana, Rosh was chatting up The Blind Cafe which I had *just* heard about a few months back. Rosh was that guy, the guy who founded The Blind Cafe, THE man behind the operation since he started running these pop up events in 2010.
Rosh stayed at my place last summer when The Blind Cafe came to Seattle and while I was in Peru. He called me up a few weeks before the event and asked he if could “rent” my car and I said, “you mean… borrow?” During the course of that conversation he joked that maybe he should “move in” to my house. This scenario had occurred to me and I had already decided I’d be ok with that, so over the phone I agreed to let Rosh stay at my place while I was on the other side of the equator. That was a first for me, quite an act of trust on my part, to let some man I’d only gotten to know for a week on retreat, interacted with briefly at a Blind Cafe in San Francisco, with whom I exchanged sporadic emails and a few phone calls, have total access to all my belongings. But that’s the thing about Rosh… he engenders immediate and whole hearted trust.
Rosh and I reconnected in Maui at the start of this year for our second annual new year’s retreat. During that week, our mutual respect of each other and friendship deepened. When I learned The Blind Cafe was coming back to Seattle, I offered up my place to Rosh as his home base, offered up the use of my car. There was a bit of back and forth – phone calls and emails – questions like, “how many people are you comfortable having stay at your place?” and arrangements to split up The Blind Cafe team at two houses so we wouldn’t be all on top of each other. Going into this adventure, it was my expectation and understanding that I’d be hosting 2 guys, Rosh and his new operations manager, for 7 nights. Two guys. I felt my insides relax when I got the final news. Not four or five. Two.
The night Rosh arrived he told me housing fell through for his other guys and that he needed to find a place for them to stay, with mentions of possibly booking them a hotel room. The next morning Rosh asked me if I’d be ok with two more guys joining us. I hesitated at first. My insides said, “ahhhhhh.” He read me energetically and said, “it’s more fun if we are all together.” Tug, tug at my heart strings. I thought about it on my bike ride to work, visualized in my head where folks would “camp” out, did a mental inventory of blankets, pillows, and towels. Ok. We can do this.
On the third night, the fifth guy joined us. Not so much asking at this point, just Rosh slipping in a little, “Sliver Fox is coming,” before bedtime on night two. Me: “What? Who?” Rosh: “We’ll talk about it in the morning.” Ultimately: questions unanswered. Sigh. At this point, what was one more person?. Oh and I guess I forgot to mention that two of these five guys are blind. Yeah, you are experiencing this news just like I did, “ummmm, what?!” and “ok.” (here you’ll have to add tones of first surprise and then tentative agreement into your internal voice of my voice and please, laugh along with me if you haven’t yet already)
I imagine that as you are reading this, you are getting a sense of Rosh’s watery nature and my more earthy nature. Rosh shifts like the sands, he is fluid. I am solid, steady, grounded like the earth. Rosh’s watery nature, from the get go, was rocking my earthy nature, but that’s what I signed up for. I know this about Rosh, I know his watery nature “pushes” people to stretch and grow. One of our retreat mantras was, after all, “the schedule is carved in sand, not in stone.” Rosh’s vibration, his optimism, his upbeat and encouraging energy, makes you want to stretch and grow. I find myself saying yes to things I wouldn’t normally say yes to and I do it because I know it’s helping me to grow and I want to grow, I want to expand the edges of my comfort zone. I signed up for this adventure. I invited this experience into my life, all the way in…
What was it like having 5 dudes in my house? Intimate. Noisy. Bustling. Busy bathroom. House and yard full of life, sometimes more life than my nervous system could tolerate. I am a highly sensitive creature – my nervous system cannot hold multiple conversations, loud music, and people shifting about all at the same time. In these moments I was really challenged to stay grounded and collected. Remember, the population of my house exploded from one to six and I was one female among five MEN.
I got a lot of practice relating to men and experiencing very different kinds of energies. I got practice making requests. I got practice setting boundaries, particularly around my tolerance for certain kinds of humor. Father and past relationship issues bubbled up to the surface. In one particularly loud and expressive voice, I heard yelling and anger and I noticed how my nervous system started to rev up and go into fight/flight/freeze mode. Oh, and exhausting. I didn’t sleep well at all. I knew that would be my greatest challenge and it was. A rush/flood of adrenaline and stress hormones made it hard for my body and mind to relax, especially the first night. And after 5 nights of not sleeping well, I was really run down and worried I was on the verge of coming down with a whopper of a cold.
The whole experience – hosting 5 dudes and “being” with Rosh’s wateriness – rocked my internal structures, specifically my needs for order, predictability, reliability, boundaries, peace and tranquility. I stretched myself farther than I’ve stretched myself before on my home turf. I’m not accustomed to so many bodies “living in” my house. I’m not used to being around so much big male energy, and sometimes the emergence of middle school aged chatter, in my home, my sacred space, day after day. I’m not used to so many shifting variables and changes in plans. I’m not used to my furniture being moved around. All of that rocked my insides, rocked my structures and I was asked to adapt, be resilient, or crumble and break down inside. Toward the end I *was* starting to crumble inside. My system was maxed out. I had experienced more “shake ups” and “rattling” than I could hold. I was feeling agitated, irritable, and needed space and quiet and sleep.
I was rocked and I recovered. Now I know I can make it through ePic internal stretches, that I can push myself and be pushed outside my comfort zone. It is my hope that my nervous system benefited from this experience, that it will be able to hold discomfort and change, to be with agitation, with ease; that I will be able to stay grounded and collected with grace when things get shaky and turbulent. I will say this of my earthy nature: I *am* resilient and adaptable and where I am not, I am cultivating a softer, more fertile soil, letting my being soak up ~water~ to soften my earthiness.
I can tell you this much…as a writer, I have let go of conventional form here. I fully embraced the meandering, watery quality of a personal essay, taking you on a walk and talk along the bank of and sometimes wadding into the babbling brook that is me.
Five years ago – June 27, 2009 – was my wedding day.
For four of the past five years I’ve taken myself some place for this anniversary – Italy, Bali, France, and Spain. Those first years it was especially important for me to get away, to take care of myself around this date. I’ve created a lot of new meaning and transformed what June 27 represents in my life. Instead of representing the beginning of the end, the explosion of my 10 year relationship just weeks after our wedding day, this date has become a celebration, an anniversary of my journey of discovery, transformation, and awakening.
That first anniversary was the biggest and the beginning of me reclaiming and transforming what June 27 means in my life. I remember saying to myself and writing in my journal something along the lines of, “my wedding day was the biggest day of my life, but this day is bigger; this day is the beginning of my NEW life.”
June 27, 2010 was the very first day of my first ever yoga retreat. That day, in the hills of Umbria in Italy, I did the biggest yoga poses of my life – adho mukha vrksasana (handstand), pincha mayurasana (peacock), and urdhva dhanurasana (wheel) – with help, of course. Reflecting back I find it very curious that the retreat leader chose me to demo supported wheel pose. I’m pretty sure every single retreat participant supported me in getting up into the pose. Wheel was the pose that did it, the pose that cracked my heart open.
At lunch after our morning yoga I started to feel shaky, started to feel my emotions rising to the surface. I found a safe, secluded, and sheltered spot under some oak trees. I lay down in the middle of a country lane and sobbed uncontrollably for hours – what a most glorious sob-fest. I remember having a sense that the branches of the trees overhead were embracing me. I remember visualizing my closest friends, and all those that supported me through my personal tragedy, in a circle around me.
Before I left my refuge under the canopy of oak trees, I went to each of the trees and thanked each one for holding me, for creating this space for me. I stopped at the last tree, was about to thank it, but noticed it was being choked by ivy, its branches broken. I realized this tree was not part of the “circle” of trees that had supported and held me; its branches were separate from the other trees. In this tree, I saw him – broken and diseased. Tears came to my eyes. I paused and then pulled myself away from that tree. I walked away. I let go. I headed down the lane back to the villa, but I knew I was setting out on my own path, my journey into my new life.
This year, four years from that day in Italy and five years from my wedding date, was the first year I was home for this anniversary. Five years. Half a decade, I knew I wanted to do something BIG, something sacred to honor myself and this anniversary. Four weeks before my anniversary, I realized June 27 would be a new moon and in that instant a WILD idea lit up in my mind: run WILD and naked in the woods. In the span of one afternoon, I created a vision for a sacred ceremony and WILD adventure.
Last Friday, June 27, 2014, nine of us, myself and 8 other spirited souls, shared a wild. exhilarating. enlivening. expansive. liberating. night together. I have never laughed and screamed (in shock and glee) so hard in my life. Felt so good. What a release!!!
The night was magical. Smudging. Calling in energies. Circle. blue Knots. Screeching owls (pretty much on que). Fire. Sharing / Being witnessed. Poetry. Personal Vows. Dancing. Playful exhibition. Screaming. Running naked in the dark. Running naked in the rain. Howls. Cackles. Laughter. Reflection. Rain sizzling. Rain steaming. on our warm, bright fire. Blessings. Singing. Love. JOY.
I vow to realize my full potential.
I vow to realize my life’s purpose, to do what I am meant to do on this earth and in this life.
Though we gathered to honor my anniversary, the experience was shared and touched and moved each person present in different ways. One woman shared, “I haven’t had this much fun in a very long time.” Another woman said something to the effect of, “I feel like a part of me came back to life.” Yet another woman said, “It was very healing and really powerful to see you ASK to be witnessed. It was exhilarating to be naked in the rain and to run into the dark.” Another expressed that she was humbled to be in company with others who were meeting their edge and stepping outside their comfort zones.
I slept soundly that night. I felt at peace, contented. I received a highly symbolic message in my dreams. One of my teachers and model of ritual and sacred ceremony, Cosetta Romani, wrote a note for me that said:
Beyond my own self-expansion, my experience of creating and officiating a sacred ceremony to honor myself and my anniversary has revealed my unique gifts and birthed a new dream: a dream to be a CELEBRANT, to create sacred rituals and ceremonies to remember, honor, and celebrate life.
washed by rain, both fierce and gentle
warmed by light, both harsh and tender
become the furrows
where seeds long buried burst their hardened hulls at last
And fall gently into the fertile earth, made rich by cruel disaster.
Dreams long stifled dare to send forth tender shoots
(from a poem written for me for my anniversary by my good friend, Kristen)
A seed has burst through its hull!!!
My new dream was officially born on July 1, 2014, my deceased brother’s 44th birthday. My brother died of brain cancer at the age of 27.
Grazie Mille, Cosetta, for the inspiration. Thank you, Robert, for planting Cosmic seeds. Thank you, Kristen, for the beautiful poem, for truly understanding the depths of my pain and wounding. Thank you, naked Rosh, for inspiring me to grow and stretch, to love and be love.
Thank you most of all to the 8 spirited souls who trusted me, showed up with open hearts, and filled the forest with laughter and de LIGHT! What a hoot!
Every morning during my Hana Maui yoga retreat (and sometimes afternoon too), we took a baptismal swim in the Venus Pools, known to be re-birthing pools. I don’t know how the pools came to be known in this way, but I can offer a few guesses based on my own experience.
For me, it was absolutely amazing to jump in and sink into the depths of the pool, totally submerged, to be virtually absent of thought in those moments and seconds of sinking and then rising back to the surface, body and breath suspended in space and time. I remember my first jump, perhaps most memorable of all my jumps.
Because I was scared, I chose to make the little jump off the bottom rock (keep in mind I had to clear a rock I could see below the surface). The jump, though little, was so very big, so incredibly exhilarating and revitalizing. I felt so alive. I squealed and hollered in glee, in ecstasy, after I broke the surface.
My “official” Venus Pools rebirth, the big contraction that gave way to my expansion, occurred during my emergence from the pool as I slithered and wriggled around, first on my belly and then on my back, head below feet, through what I affectionately call the “birth canal.” I laughed hysterically my first time through the “canal,” feeling so awkward and so challenged to get up and out of the pool. I wouldn’t have it any other way. To make passage through a canal in our adult bodies, to feel the awkwardness, the challenge, the effort it takes to be “born,” to emerge in this life as the fullest and most awake version of ourselves, is so very impacting and transformative, a real rebirth experience.
Reflecting back on my metaphysical rebirth in Maui is helping me to illuminate another rebirth I recently made passage through. I am sitting on the other side of contraction, resting in a place of spacious expansion. Finally. For many long and rather painful weeks I experienced all sorts of difficult contractions and felt the angst of an inner tension and turmoil. The big contraction, the mother of all contractions, has released and I notice that I can breathe easier, that my inner chatter has quieted considerably, that I feel more present in my body and my senses. I am so grateful for the internal shift. I told myself so many times during my contractions that “contraction gives way to expansion,” a concept of the Tantric yoga philosophy I study. Now I can speak to this truth.
We experience the pulse of contraction and expansion repeatedly throughout our lives. Every breath, every moment, every life experience, every life lesson is the pulse of contraction and expansion, an opportunity for rebirth, to give birth to ourselves. Our birthing of ourselves is our awakening into the fullest, most expansive, most vibrant expression of our Self, of our true nature, our essence.
Let’s consider the breath. Every breath is a kind of birth and death, a Samsara, so to speak – the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Some folks connect with a sense of their own mortality in that moment when the breath is suspended in space and time, in the pause between the exhalation and the inhalation. I see it from an opposite perspective. When we inhale our diaphragm contracts; it draws down and creates a vacuum effect that pulls oxygen into our lungs. When we exhale our diaphragm lets go and releases. This letting go, the release of the contraction, is the moment we give birth to ourselves, the moment we expand.
This is what I experienced in my own life. I let go. I was experiencing a multitude of contractions, many that were induced by my wounding. The biggest contraction was an attached, clingy, graspy energy living in me – my attachment to a desire, a longing for something. My protective mother, the Universe, intervened. First she said (in the form of a cosmic message), “this does not align with you.” And then, as if to reinforce the first message, she was like, “no, this is not happening.” And with that decisiveness, my clingy energy released and I started to notice a shift inside.
I started to come back online. I felt a remembrance of self. I reconnected with my journey – where I’ve been, what I’ve been through, where I am now, where I’m going on my path of unfurling. I began, once again, to touch in to my inner light. I felt reconnected to my power. I felt an inner freedom and peace. I felt expansive. In that space of letting go, my essence began to re-emerge. This re-emergence of self was a rebirth, essentially, a moment of giving birth to my Self.
Circling back to the Venus Pools, I offer one last insight. Taking the jump is also a letting go – letting go of fear, letting go of control. Sinking into the water, breath suspended in space and time, is a moment of touching into our death. When we rise back to the surface, we are reborn through our breath, a breath that reconnects us to life. On the other side of letting go is expansion and freedom and bliss.
Speaking of births, today, April 16, is the birthday of my beautiful friend Jessica. I honor you for your willingness to dive into the depths of your self and I so cherish our friendship! LOVE to you today and every day!! ❤ 🙂