Making Different Choices

As of late I’ve noticed that I’ve been making different choices in my life. Today I made a choice that I never would have made a few short years ago. I decided to take a day off from doing something I love to do. When I came out to the mountains I assumed that I would ski everyday and relax and write at night. I could have skied today. I might have even wanted to ski today. I didn’t.

As the day wore on yesterday I found my legs grew weary. The effect of the altitude and a rigorous day on the slopes had me playing it safe for the last two hours. As we got down to the final few chair lifts of the afternoon I decided to head up a little higher into the mountain one more time. I wasn’t about to do anything too crazy. I just wanted on last long, slow run down an intermediate slope. The majority of the afternoon had been cloudy whereas the morning was bathed in glorious sun. If you are not a skier, let me tell you the visibility difference of the terrain between sun and clouds is tremendous. In the sun I am confident and light on my skis. When it’s darker I am heavy and tentative.

As I was riding up into the higher part of the mountain one last time for the day, the sun broke out from behind the clouds. When I got to the top, the slopes were illuminated like they had not been illuminated all afternoon. I saw it as a sign. I chose a comfortable but challenging run. I spent the next 20 minutes on a joy ride of snow and sun and movement and flow. When I got to the bottom it was 3:50 p.m. The chairlifts were running for ten more minutes and I had just enough time for one last short run. But then I realized that nothing was going to equal the run I just had, so why should in squeeze in one last run just for the sake of doing one more run. Without even giving it a second thought, I kicked off my skis and walked away. It is a choice that would have been unlikely in the past.

Last night as I relaxed back at the cabin it occurred to me that I had other choices I could make as well. I could ski on both Saturday and Sunday and I would make it through both days even if I was a little tired in the afternoon – OR – I could take a day off and do something more restorative on Saturday and then have a great full day on the slopes on Sunday with fully rested legs and a renewed spirit. The question that begs to be asked is, “What would Jim do to pass his quieter day on Saturday and renew?”

For me the first answer is always yoga. I figured that there had to be a yoga studio in the village. I went to the Google and found a place a few miles from where I was staying. When I looked at the schedule I saw that they had a hot vinyasa flow yoga class at 10:30 a.m. How perfect I thought, “My favorite kind of yoga and not too early.”

I then thought about how nice it would be to do something therapeutic for my body. Perhaps I could get a massage or try another type of healing modality. Then it popped into my head that there would likely be some hot springs in the area. I went back to the Google. I wasn’t as happy with my results this time. I found a place about an hour away but it had average reviews. I figured I would play it by ear. I liked the idea of soaking in hot mineral water, so maybe even if the experience was only 3.1 stars, it would still be good enough. A fairly decent plan was shaping up. I made the final decision to take the day off of skiing and do something else. I was content.

I was all too excited to not set an alarm. On Thursday it was up early to get to the airport. On Friday it was up early to get to the slopes. On Saturday it would be no alarm and sleep until I got up naturally. There was no way I would sleep so late that I would miss a 10:30 a.m yoga class. I was going to sleep until 8 or 9:00 a.m. and be delighted to do so! Apparently the Universe had a different plan. I stirred in bed at 5:30 a.m. and I was fully awake within 15 minutes. I got up and tidied up the blog I had written the night before. I thought I might doze off for a bit after that, but clearly it was not happening. I went back to my computer and went back to the Google. I thought I might see what other interesting things there might be to do in the area. Perhaps I needed to call yet another audible.

The first thing that caught my eye was a scenic drive to a high mountain pass that was about 45 minutes away. Unlike the hot spring, it had great reviews. I figured I had enough time in the morning to check it out and still make the 10:30 a.m. yoga class. I made a nice breakfast and had a cup of turmeric tonic tea and packed my things for the day. I figured I would take everything I might need. I even grabbed a book that I started reading the day before in case I found any down time in my travels. It was unlikely, but one never knows.

I left the cabin and put the address of the high mountain pass on my GPS. It said that I would arrive at 8:27 a.m. The drive grew increasingly more magnificent as I wound my way up into the mountains. My GPS said that I had six miles to go to my destination and the roads were growing narrower and narrower and the amount of un-cleared snow increased with each minute. Then while I still had about five miles left to travel the road just ended. I looked up and saw a sign that read, “Winter access prohibited by motor vehicles.” My heart sank. My perfect morning starter had been tossed a curveball. I stopped the car and sat and thought for a moment.

I had plenty of time. I was wearing good hiking boots. I had a bottle of water and a hat and gloves. I decided I would do an impromptu hike on the road that was closed to motor vehicles but open to my feet. I locked the car and set out on the path. The way was lined with giant pine trees and the ground was covered in snow. The path was a well-traveled path based on the number of footprints I saw, but I was so totally alone. I started to look in the snow that led up into the hills to see if I could see any other kinds of prints. Sure enough I did. I’m no expert tracker, but I know that what I saw was not rabbit prints. They were much larger than that. I thought about turning back. I had more than an ounce of fear and I was very grateful that I had not yet seen The Revenant even if Leo did finally wine his Oscar for the role.

As I continued on between the narrow line of trees I saw what looked like it might be a clearing ahead; a place where I might get a scenic lookout point. Despite my lingering fears I pushed on to see what might lie ahead at the clearing. Sure enough the trees opened up and I had a full view in 360 degrees of exactly what I was looking for when I started my drive. I stood in stillness and listened to the deafening silence. I was not about to be eaten by a bear. I was in the hands of God at 11,000 feet of elevation.

unnamed-16After a nice amount of time to enjoy and reflect, I walked back to the car very grateful for my serendipitous early waking. I still had plenty of time to make it to the yoga class and had already experienced enough restoration to complete many a day in my life. I calmly grooved back down the winding roads to the village and found my way to the yoga studio with a good amount of time to spare.

I decided to check in at the yoga studio early and see if I needed to pre-register for class. There was a lovely young woman at the desk. She had a thick blonde braid of hair pulled off to the left side of her head that reached well below her shoulders. She also had a gold ring in her right nostril that seemed to perfectly balance both sides of her beauty. She registered me for class and asked if I was visiting or if I was a resident. I told her I was a writer on sabbatical and that I was splitting my time between skiing, writing and other good stuff. She told me that the woman who was going to teach the class I was about to take was amazing and that she was their most popular teacher. I counted my good fortune for the second time in my day.

She then asked me what other good stuff I was going to do today. I told her that I was planning on driving to a hot springs area that wasn’t too far away and I told her the name. She didn’t say anything but her silence spoke words that were left unsaid. She then very politely told me that there was another lesser know hot springs area in the other direction. She said that it was nothing fancy but it was outdoors in the mountains and that the drive there alone through the mountains was worth the time invested. She said it was about an hour and a half away. She said I could use the Google and check it out. I still had a few minutes before class so I did. It was exactly what I was looking for. She said it was a place for hippy types to go and get into their own space. I got ready for class with a new plan and a renewed lightness of heart.

As soon as class started the teacher who came with high recommendation said that she had a specific intention for today’s class. She said that one of the core members of their studio had been in a car accident two days ago and that she was in a coma with a severe head injury. She asked that we all hold space and send healing as we did our practice. I noticed that the nice woman with the braid and the nose ring had joined in for class and was just over my left shoulder. I could sense the high level of emotions that she and others in the community were feeling as the class started.

The next 75 minutes were some of the most powerful moments of yoga that I have had in a lifetime that has seen not less that 15,000 hours on the mat. At the end of class I was lying in Savasana and my whole body started to physically shake. I could feel the love. I could feel the pain. I could feel the healing. It was as if Divine light had chosen my body as a conduit to bring space and light into this particular moment in time. I was awash in ecstasy and grief all at once. After our final Savasana we sat in meditation and chanted. I could hear many in the room weeping and I too began to weep. I was sitting on the edge of a razor. On one side of the razor was the ecstasy of the Cosmic Consciousness and on the other side of the razor was the grief of this collective community of wounded souls. How remarkable is it that the physical manifestation of those two very opposite emotions is exactly the same. That manifestation is in tears. My tears were a vehicle for both the joy of the moment and the pain.

After class I was approached by a number of people who thanked me for being there. It was I that was all too grateful to be included. After class I found the woman with the braid and nose ring. I gave her hug and thanked her for her kindness. She handed me a piece of paper with the name of the hot springs, a wish that she hoped I would enjoy my soak and a smiley face. I left the studio and knew instantly that I would be taking the longer drive to the lesser known hot springs where hippies go to find their space. Another magical serendipity had just emerged.

unnamed-17I went back to the car and plugged in my destination. Just as my new friend had suggested it was about an hour and a half drive. The drive alone would have been worth the trip even if the most magical hot springs were not on the other side…and they were. Along the way I saw scenic overpasses that I stopped at every time so the drive grew to two hours. I didn’t mind. I was in the moment and it was a moment like none I had ever known. There were cattle ranches. There were small mining towns that dated back to the late 1800s. At every turn there was a view of 14,000 foot peaks that never grew old on these willing eyes.

The last leg of the journey was up an old mountain pass road that cut through cliffs that were home to tree friends that hung onto the soil in the most unforgiving circumstances. The power of life to persevere never ceases to amaze me. When I arrived at the hot springs there were no billboards or fancy signs. There was just a small lodge and a gate-keeper at the front desk. She collected my $18 and told me I had use of the pools until they closed at midnight and that I could go back to town and have dinner and come back. I told her that I was just passing through for a few hours. She told me that I would want to come back. She was right.

unnamed-18The place was perfect. There were five outdoor, natural mineral water pools of varying temperatures nestled into a gap between two mountain peaks. I found the changing room. After I changed I stepped out into the 50-degree air in my suit only,  but I was not even the least bit chilled. Once again the sun had come out to guide me at the time I most needed it. I stepped into the first of the five pools and found the water to be warm, but not as warm as I hoped it would be. I moved to a different pool and found it to be warmer still, but my muscles and my spirit wanted to soak and soothe and feel the heat. I looked over to another pool and saw steam rising into the air. I left the second pool and found the heat I was looking for in the third. I was like Goldilocks and the three bears that I had avoided being eaten by earlier in the day had helped me find the one that was “just right.”

For the next two hours I moved from pool to pool as my body temperature told me what it was looking for. At one point I noticed a pool in the distance that was painted blue in its entirety. The rest of the pools had been made out of natural rock and the blue pool stuck out so much I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t already noticed it. Perhaps I wasn’t ready yet?

Since I was on the verge of overheating I thought I’d take a walk over and check it out. Sure enough it wasn’t only cool, it was winter-natural river water temperature cool. If I had to guess it was about 45 degrees. It was cooler than the air temperature and nobody was in it. I stuck a toe in. I waded in up to my shins. And then I jumped in! I’m not sure if I have ever felt more alive than I did in that moment.

For the next 30 minutes I switched back and forth from the hottest pool to the ice cold pool. My body felt safe. My human felt restored. The amazing thing is that both the extreme heat and the extreme cold had the same sensation. That sensation was a tingling that made it so I couldn’t identify the difference. I could not recognize the temperature  of my skin any more than my spirit couldn’t recognize the similar but very different manifestations of grief and ecstasy in my tears during yoga class. I reflected on that idea with a great sense of knowing and a great love in my heart for the knowledge.

As the sun fell to late afternoon heights, I dried off and put my clothes back on. I wasn’t ready to leave yet,  but I had soaked enough. I found a spot down by the river and sat in cross-legged position and pulled out the book that I had fortuitously packed in the morning. It is a book by one of my inspirations and virtual spiritual mentors, Paramahansa Yoganada. The title of the book is “The Yoga of Jesus.” I bought the book over ten years ago but I had never read it. Maybe like the coldest pool, I just wasn’t ready yet?

I sat on the banks of the river and as I read I quickly came to the phrase Cosmic Consciousness. I found it curious that it was the same phrase that had entered my mind in the moment on the razor’s edge at the yoga studio. I can’t even begin to re-count that power of Yogananda’s life or his writings about how we are all One. In order to do so I’d have to write a blog that is a million times longer that this one, and this one is long enough already! Suffice it to say the book was the perfectly and divinely guided reading for this day on this journey.

On my way back to my cabin I wandered through the same sites I had seen on the way to the hot springs, but somehow they looked even more magnificent. I’m not even sure how that was possible but it was and so it is. On a day that I decided to take a day off from doing something that I love, I found a greater Love than I ever could have dreamed of.

So today I made some different choices. I chose to let go of the things that my human told me that I wanted to do, and I instead listened to my Higher self and as a result I surrendered to the current and I truly found my WAY.

I suspect that when this little sabbatical is over I will be making a lot of different choices in my life. In my circle, we often talk about the things that all people who enjoy spiritual abundance have in common. Those three things are Vision, Belief and Action. I have always been good at visions. In fact my visions have been so powerful at times that they have sacred me and I have shied away and doused them with distractions. I’ve always been very good at talking action as well. In fact I’ve been so good at taking action that I have often run myself into the ground trying to do more, see more and feel more. I’m finally learning to take the foot off the gas pedal a bit. Now about that Belief part? I’ve never lacked confidence. I just wasn’t so sure that I believed that I had the courage to stay the course and realize my ultimate purpose. I’m starting to believe. In fact I do believe.

I often get asked what I see happening in the next few months or few years. One of the things I have found myself saying a lot lately as I/we continue on the path that we have been directed to is this, “I have a feeling that my/our lives will be un recognizable within six months to a year…”

The scary thing about unrecognizable is that it opens up a portal to fear. In this day alone I have had fear of missing out on a day of skiing and doing something I would love to do that I seldom get the chance to do. I have had fear of being eaten by bears on the pass. I have had fear of my emotions. I have had fears of the tears that I feel that some would say are a sign of weakness, not the strength that I know they are. I have had fear about being too tired to make the long drive home after hours of powerful energy work.

The great thing about deciding to face those little fears is that it makes the other side more recognizable. I’m starting to recognize what the rest of my/our lives look like. With the support of the Divine, I am truly beginning to Love what I see….

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About Jim Herbert

I've been wanting to write my whole life. By age 45 it had amounted to nothing more than a storage locker of half full journals and a lot of unfulfilled dreams. Then Paris in the fall of 2011 happened. It was the catalyst I needed to consistently blog. At first I had a hard time hitting the publish button, but now two blog sites and over 300 posts later I'm hitting my stride. I'm also a budding speech writer. I've recently been heavily involved in the Chicago Storytelling scene and have also won the Chicago Toastmasters Area 66 International Speech Contest. Check out our website at www.emergingintojoy.com for more details about the amazing things that are happening in my life. A book or two are nearing completion. With another Paris trip on tap for Easter of 2015 I can only imagine that there are Infinite Possibilities on the horizon!!!
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One Response to Making Different Choices

  1. wendydoherty says:

    There is a lot of energy in this post. I’m glad you invested in some “me time.” It gets our juices flowing. A favorite portion from this writing: “If you are not a skier, let me tell you the visibility difference of the terrain between sun and clouds is tremendous. In the sun I am confident and light on my skis. When it’s darker I am heavy and tentative.”

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