Seattle: The Mystic
I was flooded with feelings of mystery as Brandon and I arrived in Seattle. The day was slightly overcast, which at this point I have grown used to now having spent a fair amount of time in the Pacific Northwest. Gray skies through the late morning typically give away to bright blue skies the rest of the day. I knew there were giants to the east and west of us waiting patiently to reveal themselves from behind the clouds only under the right weather conditions. Mount Rainier, the giant that anchors Seattle, showed itself to us through small breaks in the sky as we headed north from Portland. The sight instantly evoked a sense of wonder and adventure. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “what other treasures remain hidden in this new place?”
If I’ve learned one thing about adventuring this year, it is the importance of having a plan, to be open to letting that plan go and to be flexible enough to think of backup plans on the spot. For most people, order and structure provides security, so you could see how this type of lifestyle might be unsettling when it comes to contentment. Leaving Seattle, I can say with certainty both Brandon and I have honed in on the skill of going with the flow, but it was during this visit that pushed us in that direction. The ability to go with the flow comes from perception and that is what this blog entry is all about. If you see it the right way, anytime you try something new in life it opens up the possibility for your awareness to expand and growth to occur. This year has brought me nothing but new experiences. When I don’t receive them with the right attitude, my mind eats itself alive (you’ll see, just keep reading).
Instagram and TikTok might have you believing that this travel/adventure lifestyle is super carefree, but this is only true in some ways. A carefree spirit, in my opinion, is an earned quality that someone gains having gone through and overcome so many obstacles that now most hurdles seem trivial. To curb any possibility that this next part makes you feel like this is going to be a parks and rec discussion, just bear with me and know ahead of time that the intent serves a larger, more spiritual, purpose. Majority of the national parks and popular nature destinations require reservations, fees and permits (some only accessible through lotteries). They also draw in huge crowds, so much that if you visit during the wrong time/day it can eat into the time you have allotted for exploring or totally prevent you from even visiting. Brandon and I have learned the hard way too many times, so we do our best to plan out our weekend explorations a month or more in advance.
Quick flashback to bring this all together. On one occasion in Bend, OR we drove over an hour down a 3 mile bumpy, narrow, scenic mountain road only to be turned away as we approached the trailhead because we didn’t have the “right” permit (keep in mind we already had to drive a few hours just to make it to the this road). We drove the hour or more back down the road white knuckling the steering wheel and bottoming out our car along the way. After that we tried at starting two more hikes and failed due to limited access to permits. All of this hassle just to ultimately end up back at our camp for the start of a heavy rainstorm. We started our day with so much excitement, but this is the type of disappointment that pops up at the most random times when you are doing something as unpredictable as exploring nature. For this type of activity, attaching too strongly to a specific plan can ruin a trip. It’s definitely important to have a glass half full mentality. Nothing is ever as it seems because that night we saw the most memorable pastel sunsets, a sky full of stars and had wonderful conversation around a campfire.
So we came to Seattle with a plan that we would schedule a weeklong backpacking/camping trip to celebrate our one year anniversary. Through his research, Brandon found a well known backpacking trail called The Enchantments located in the Cascades. This highly challenging, point to point, 22 mi trail brings you through lush alpine forests and winds you through seemingly endless deep blue glacier lakes. To our dismay, all of the permits were gone and the only option was to show up the day of and see if we could each get a permit via a lottery system. On average 30,000 people a year apply for permits and about 2,000 are granted. On popular days, the park will have dozens of hikers show up for a chance in the lottery. Our initial understanding of the situation was that it seemed impossible, but we were going to stay hopeful and have a backup trip planned near the area just in case this one fell through. I recall being so proud of us for having this sort of mentality and putting the knowledge from our past experiences to good use.
Two days before we were supposed to leave, a permit actually opened up in The Enchantments. Eeeeeeeeek! We were so pumped that something had actually gone “right.” Now we could prepare for the trip, make the long drive and know that we’d have the chance to see it all the way through. It felt as though since we were accepting of the possibility of failure and change, the universe gave us a little gift of stability and certainty. But just as quickly as the good news came, the bad news rolled in. The day before leaving, there were reports of rain and snow in the area we would be exploring. I did not want bad weather to come in the way of this once in a lifetime opportunity, so I pushed down worry and downplayed any thoughts of concern Brandon expressed. We packed our bags full of rain gear, warm clothing, extra food and we departmed at 6AM the following morning to take on The Enchantments.
I don’t want this rest of this to be a play by play of the following events that ensued for the next 32 hours, so I am going to be brief. In summary, it rained for the first 7 hours of our hike, then proceeded to snow for the next 12, then back to rain for the next 5. The weather finally gave way for the final hours of our hike. During that period of time, I felt genuine fear for mine and Brandon’s safety. Overnight the trail disappeared under 6 inches of snow leaving little to no indication of the path to get out. We started our descent in near white out conditions falling down sloping boulders covered in slush, ice and 6-8 foot drop offs. I questioned whether or not I had the physical ability to get off this mountain and the mental ability to keep going. I even contemplated us getting rescued. For 32 hours I repeated to myself, “you can do hard things” over and over and over and OVER again. It’s difficult to explain how that sort of mental effort breaks you down overtime. I felt dumb for not being more worried about the weather and guilty for manipulating Brandon into doing something he wasn’t actually comfortable doing. Why did I do that? In the beginning, I mentioned that every new experience is an opportunity to expand awareness. The entire time we backpacked, I questioned what I was supposed to be seeing, but couldn’t witness anything past stupidity.
The word perception has so much depth. It can be used to explain our ability to see or become aware of something through our senses, a state of being or a mental impression (a way of regarding or understanding something). In yoga, perception correlates with our Third Eye Chakra. This is the energetic center for internal seeing, intuition, and the place where we create meaning and consciousness to everyday life. It is made up of both memory and fantasy. The difference between perception and intuition is that intuition is based on emotion and behavior whereas perception is the photograph that comes before. In stressful situations it becomes difficult to “see” things as they truly exist. Our perception (initial photograph) can be skewed by our own biases, stereotypes and assumptions. When considering intuition from a yogic lens, the intuitive voice is a supreme inner guide free of these biases, but originating from divine truth. In this scenario I was trying to look deep within to find the courage to make my out, but found myself fixating only on my own insecurities.
Throughout this entire trip it was hard for me to “see” the situation clearly. If there are universal forces at play in this life, why were we given the rare opportunity for a permit, but then jinxed with bad weather? I never imagined that I’d be in a situation feeling my own life was at risk from my own choices. How did I get here? Why did I do this to myself? For the entire hike and the day following once we were back home, I couldn’t understand. I felt like I was grieving. Usually after accomplishing something of this magnitude, I’d be on a high and so proud of myself. Instead I felt sad, insecure and unsure. I felt ashamed of my physical appearance and started questioning my abilities as a yoga teacher. I thought I was going insane. Finally, I opened up to Brandon.
He showed me compassion, but he also gave me some tough love because he felt surprised I wasn’t more proud of what we had overcome together. He questioned me about the insecurities I was feeling around yoga and my eating disorder. He encouraged me to take action and to continue to do the hard things! I instantly thought about my mountain mantra of “you can do hard things.” Again, it started playing over and over and over and OVER again in my head. My mind started piecing together things like a puzzle. Brandon said “I believe in you. You are good at whatever you put your mind to. When will you actually start to believe it too?” Finally, I started to see.
Even though it gives me the most purpose in life, ever since becoming a yoga teacher I’ve dealt with imposter syndrome. I suppose it’s probably because I lack confidence in my personal life. This is common for many teachers, but the anxiety has dialed up this year since my practice and teaching looks very different. What I realized from Brandon’s question was that my perception of teaching yoga had gotten way off track. Sometimes I wonder if there is a correlation with this and my eating disorder/body dysmorphia; actually I know there is. Western yoga tends to hyperfixate on lean, flexible bodies and overly complex sequencing that is not always accessible or intentional. Of course there have been times that I’ve enjoyed engaging with yoga in this way, but ultimately this demanding way of practicing is exhausting as a practitioner and a teacher and can lead someone to where I’ve ended up (confused).
This year I made a conscious decision to connect back to the roots of yoga, digging deeper than a gymnastics practice. I guess I stopped trusting in that commitment somewhere along the way, but not anymore. I have self-reflected, broke myself open and sewed myself back together. Through all of this I have gained invaluable life experiences and knowledge that I am excited to incorporate into my own personal life and teaching once I step back into it on a regular basis. I looked back at my first blog post and that was my actual mission statement Taking this year to travel, becoming a yoga teacher, breaking the cycle of addiction and confronting my eating disorder all came from an intuitive understanding that it was the right choice regardless of not knowing what the outcome would be. I have the power to see myself as someone who is wounded and weakened by obstacles or stronger because I’ve made my way out of them.
This journey through the Cascades provided me the chance to see my own potential clearly and gave me the opportunity to trust myself when I repeated “you can do hard things.” All along I’ve been seeking opportunities to test my own strength. Now looking back at it, I see the grieving process I went through after the hike was a mourning process of letting go. This year has felt like a never ending process of saying “goodbye.” I just needed to admit it to myself that I am the girl that goes for it even when she’s scared.
When the weather conditions are just right, you can finally see the giants of the Cascades to the east and the west. Mount Rainier fills up the skyline in the south. The mountain ranges are so huge and magnificent it’s hard to believe that with clouds you'd never realize they are there. If you time it just right, you’ll see the fins of a family of Orcas breaching the water's surface. You might spend hours, days or weeks trying to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures and never get so lucky. Seattle is mysterious, but if you wait for the right conditions things will reveal themselves to you and bring you clarity.
Inspired by this experience, this class was designed to help activate the third eye chakra abilities. This energetic center governs our ability to command and perceive. It helps us to understand our outer and inner world and paint a picture of their interconnectedness. Engaging with the third eye will help you develop trust in your own intuition. We work with breathe, color and spatial visualization while flowing through dynamic movement eventually building to poses like Eagle, Camel and Pincha. A blanket might be helpful to protect your knees throughout class and blocks to help support you as you reach towards the ground.