Chapter 1: Now It Feels Like I'm on Fire

The calendar said it was December, and so I had no choice but to wander the wilds of the Western United States, in search of the meaning of Christmas. The first stop was Los Angeles.

Evidence of the fires raging in the hills around us was surprisingly hard to come by, aside from a vague haze in the distance, the scorched hillsides I’d passed on the 405 freeway on the way from the airport, and the stories people were telling me about the inconvenient evacuation of Ventura or how close the fires had come to our great-uncle’s ranch in Santa Barbara.

Southern Californians have a nonchalance about fires that seems absolutely bewildering to anyone from the many places in the world that don’t routinely catch on fire every year. Ash can be snowing down from the sky and life ticks on exactly like normal. It doesn’t become a problem at all until your own back yard is stampeded by fleeing wildlife an instant before it bursts into flames.

I spent an afternoon visiting with my one-year-old niece Ava, who was fascinated with touching the bottoms of my shoes. My germaphobe sister squirmed.

“Don’t worry, these shoes have only been to North Korea, Japan, China-”


Ava and I spent a solid hour looking out the window and talking about everything that was outside. Since her vocabulary is currently limited to “Mommy,” “Daddy,” and “Whassat?” this was a hilarious conversation. Ava is the best.

Photo by Sabryna Cote


My desire to see my uncle again while he’s in good health combined with my cousin Lacey’s desire to travel anywhere and see anything at all and my other cousin Tyler’s desire to not be left alone at the house, into a natural road trip for the three of us.

After a lovely visit with our aunt and uncle in Prescott Valley, Arizona, we wound our way up to Sedona and hiked up and around Bell Rock, taking the only group photo it occurred to us to take on the entire trip:

Photo by Lacey Watkin

Lacey got to test out her emerging energy awareness on a real live Sedona vortex, then we made our way to Crystal Magic to bask in their magic crystals, with a brief stop to deal with the fact that whoever’d had our rental Kia Sportage before us was a lunatic who had inflated all of the tires weird. “It’s okay that one of the tires is inflated to 55 psi, right?” “Uhm, no?”

This was fixed in a jiff, except for that fact that the possessed tires kept re-inflating themselves at unpredictable intervals and I spent the entire trip constantly hopping out to stab one of the valves with a Bic pen, encouraging it to fart out some air before we rolled over the SUV and ended up at the bottom of the grand canyon.

We made it up to Flagstaff for lunch at my favorite restaurant, Red Curry, which was open for a change. After my last meal there I’d felt like I just spent a week at a meditation retreat, and I’d waited a year and a half to ask the cook what spiritual voodoo she was doing to the food to give it such a high vibration. Last December I’d managed to pass though Flagstaff on a day when the restaurant was closed, so this year I wasn’t going home without an answer.

I’d spent the last year trying to teach myself to create food with this same quality, experimenting with structured water, chanting into the food, and just making everything out of amphetamines. I’d had some success, but still wanted to see what they were doing back there in that kitchen. I ambushed our waitress with all of these questions as soon as we sat down. It was her second day on the job and apparently they had not let her into the inner sanctum of the mystery school just yet. She badly wanted for me to be kidding and to not really want her to go back to her boss with all these questions.

“They’re Buddhist?” she offered, hoping that would be enough to fend off these three crazy people who had just blown in out of the cold.

It wasn’t.

Eventually I got her to ask for realsies and she reported back.

“She said no one had ever asked that question before,” she said, thinking she was shaming me but actually making me kind of proud.

“She said they put their mind into the food.”

Cryptic as that was, it was enough, convincing me that I was on the right track. We ordered our food and it was delicious. The lemongrass ginger tea had me buzzing once again.

Lacey and Tyler experienced the energy of the food there too, but in differing ways. While I felt an otherworldly peace, Lacey described it as feeling like she was high. Tyler said he wanted to jump up from the table and run down the block and back, and then throw his chop sticks through the wall. There may have been amphetamines in his tea.

After lunch we went over to Sacred Rites next door, where I’d had an amazing sound therapy session the year before. This time Lacey got a long demo on the sound therapy bed and Tyler went for a full session. They’d added some new bells and a huge gong since I was there last. The gong was absolutely earth-shattering, every time the guy hit it, all the bells in the shop would ring in resonance. Just watching Tyler’s session was transcendent. After it was over he emerged from a deep trance and was quiet for about three days.

We made our way from Flagstaff up to the Monument Valley, my favorite place, this being my third visit in the last year and a half. Regular readers of my blog are no doubt thrilled that they get to read about this freaking place again.

It was a first time visit for Tyler and Lacey, and my heart sank a little as we approached the valley in a thick fog. As cool as that was for me to see the place in a new (lack of) light, much of what’s beautiful about the valley is lost when you can’t see anything. We checked into our hotel, ate, and stood shivering out on our balcony, looking up at where the stars should be. As if on cue, they began to blink on as the clouds blew away across the desert. Soon, the entire sky was sparkling.

In the morning, we got up in the dark and poked around in the blackness for the head of the Wildcat trail. As much as I like hiking in the dark, due to the slope and the terrain, the phone flashlight became a bit of a necessity here. At least for the first five minutes until my iPhone entered “Cold Cold Oh God Cold” mode and Lacey distinctly heard it blurt out “Fuck this noise!” right before it shut itself down.

The sun began to peek above the horizon and we were treated to a textbook breathtaking sunrise. The buttes glowed in the first rays of the sun and the ice crystals in the snow sparkled.

After finishing the hike and warming ourselves to buffet fare, we conquered the Valley Loop Drive and by some inexplicable miracle, the fry bread shack was open in late December. I avoided all eye-mouth contact with this gift horse and before long I was spilling delicious honey all over my second rental SUV in the last year and a half.

BTW, I didn’t want to break up the pulse-pounding excitement of the previous paragraph to mention that I also ventured out onto John Ford’s Point, aka The Windiest Place in Creation, to snap a photo:

Tyler and Lacey started out joining me on this trek, but both noped out and turned back for the car at the exact same moment, when they both discovered that they had previously-unnoticed turkey thermometers that popped out of their abdomens when their core temperature hit “Christ on a Bike.”

After the loop drive and the museum, we headed north and I drove them up the Moki Dugway, climbing the ragged switchbacks of this Flintstones freeway up the cliff and enjoying the pants-shittingly beautiful view. Up top we turned down the hidden drive to Muley Point. Our tires cut through the white layer of snow, exposing the red earth beneath, like our own personal callback to The Last Jedi.

After heading back down the Moki Dugway, we tested our luck on the Valley of the Gods road, a roller-coaster of a dirt road through another expanse of buttes and monuments. This being a road I’ve inadvisably tackled in all manner of vehicles before, including a 1985 Honda Civic, I thought our Kia SUV handled it admirably. This gave me the confidence to race down the road’s dips and swerves KACRASH okay took that one a little too fast.

THUNK, swerve, BANG. “Ha ha! Don’t break the car!” Oh, the joys of rentals.

After bottoming out the SUV a few more times, I saw one red boulder by the side of the road where the snow had fallen on it in the perfect shape of a skull.

Okay, note taken, slowing down a bit.

After the trip, I hosed the SUV off thoroughly in our driveway, both to avoid an excessive cleaning fee but also so that the vehicle being caked head to toe in red mud wouldn’t inspire the rental car company to inspect the underside of the vehicle for damage. It surely looked like Vietnam down there.

Chapter 3: Shiprock

Last winter on my road trip with my grandpa and my aunt, we stopped briefly at Shiprock in northwestern New Mexico. I’m going to call it a mountain, technically it’s some other geology term nobody gives a shit about. This rock is holy to the Navajo, as their origin story tells that a giant eagle carried them to these lands on its back, before the body of the eagle became Shiprock.

Last year I’d been overwhelmed by the intense energy of the place, even though we hadn’t been able to get all that close to the mountain due to there not really being roads that go there. If you look on Google Maps, it will show roads, but these are “roads” in the sense that there are some tire tracks in the desert in that spot because somebody drove that way when they were drunk once. Last December we’d driven as far as I was comfortable taking my grandpa’s truck and then I’d hiked a bit closer and meditated for a while, stunned by the utter silence and eerie energy of the place.

This time I’d rented an all-wheel drive SUV specifically so I could experience Shiprock from closer up, and this proved utterly necessary. The recognizable roads eventually petered out into what looked like hiking trails, then these got sketchy even for hiking trails. In spots there were tire ruts, but these ruts were often the absolute worst places to drive.

We bounded up, over and down, across the scrub. A few times we got the SUV up at a sideways angle that I’m pretty sure is about as sharp as you want to get an SUV tilted if you’re not interested in having it roll over onto the driver’s side door.

BASH SCRAPE BASH. Our ground clearance was pretty good, considering, but all the same I was happy I’d be returning the SUV in the dead of night when the horrible things we were doing to its underbody wouldn’t be visible.

We kept meandering closer and closer to Shiprock until it became clear to my surprise that we’d be able to drive right up to its base. Woohoo! We pulled up and got out. The air was buzzing with an ominous energy.

I instantly felt called to hike up the side of the mountain, and left my cousins behind. As I walked, I was filled with an otherworldly feeling, like I could fly. I hiked up and up, not sure how high I’d be able to go. There were no trails, just a steepening mountain face.

On the way up, the dirt became looser and looser, making it hard to get a foothold without sliding down. The thin layer of snow on the mountain didn’t help either. The only plants present were 100% jagged thorns.

I began to hop from rock to rock, aware that the gaps between the rocks were probably packed with sleeping snakes and other assorted demons.

I’d originally set my sights on touching the sheer rock walls of the mountain half way up, but once I was nearly there the slope became impassably steep and I had to settle for clawing my way up to a large boulder embedded in the mountainside.

I sat gingerly on the boulder, willing it to not suddenly break free and leave me snowboarding down the mountain on a giant rock. The entire desert plateau spread out before me, flat and immense, off into the distance. The massive shadow of Shiprock stretched across the plain off toward the horizon, as the sun prepared to descend behind me.

I gazed at the distant mountains and the clouds hanging above them. The sense of space was overwhelming. And then, in an instant, my awareness opened up and I experienced viscerally that I was one with all of this. I was those mountains off in the distance, and the wide open yellow plains. I was the blue sky and I was all the air. Everything I could see, I was that too. And then my perspective flipped and I realized that I was even the mountain I was sitting on.

This sank in for a moment and then my consciousness became huge, the size of the entire mountain. The towers of rock way down at the base of the mountain were no longer huge towers that were distant from me, they were suddenly much smaller than me and seemingly right at my feet. I sensed that I could reach out and hold them in the palm of my hand, like they were toys.

I felt my guide, Kobo Daishi, appear behind me and he leaned down to my ear.

“See? Stop making yourself so small.”

Suddenly I saw exactly what he meant. All of this vastness was who I truly was, and yet I spend most of my time with my awareness contracted down to the level of very mundane human worries. Does this person like me? Is my cousin having fun on the trip? I saw that we’re these vast beings who are dreaming we’re something small. Our consciousness is like a camera lens where we can dilate out to this epic scale or contract back down to experience ourselves as something very tiny and seemingly powerless. I saw that every day, in every moment I make this choice. We choose the smallest setting so often it feels like that’s who we really are, but it’s just a habit. This becomes comfortable and we grow so unconscious, we forget we’re making this choice.

This realization has resonated with me heavily ever since that moment, as I see day by day all the ways I make myself small, and challenge myself to make the other choice instead, just to see what it’s like.

I turned around and looked up at the craggy peaks of Shiprock. I saw in that moment that the very shape of the mountain represents energy lifting up out of the ground. The image of the eagle is about freedom, breaking free of attachments and limitations in your consciousness. I’d had some slight apprehension about visiting Shiprock, as the Navajo are generally not thrilled about tourism here. But I saw in that moment that I was connecting to what the mountain was really about, something that few people do. This was what it was for.

I asked Kobo Daishi if there was anything else for me here. “Go within,” he said. I centered my consciousness in my chest. “No, go within.” Oh, he means within the mountain! I projected my awareness down into the rock. I felt an immense solidity and strength, and saw that I was this strength, as well. My body began buzzing with an overwhelming energy. My hands were shaking. Wow.

As the sun set I very gingerly descended the mountain, only sliding uncontrollably seventeen or eighteen times, until I rejoined my two cousins and our absolutely filthy car at the base. We shared our wildly divergent experiences of Shiprock as we lumbered across the desert, through gullies and around locked gates, eventually finding the road back to where the people live.

Chapter 4: Canyon de Chelly

Leaving Shiprock, we drove south through the night. The road wound its way up through the mountains. Lacey was taking snapshots of the dashboard as the temperature dropped into the coldest range she’d ever experienced. It bottomed out at -13 Celsius. We were deep in conversation when I noticed the road change color. It wasn’t snow, and the color was so uniform I shook it off as a different kind of light grey pavement.

A few minutes later, as the road arced steeper uphill, the car in front of us suddenly stopped in the middle of the road for no apparent reason. I stopped behind them and waited while Lacey and I talked. Then I noticed an odd sound outside. I rolled down my window. What the? Suddenly I realized it was the sound of that car’s engine racing, combined with his tires spinning on the ice. Oh shit, this isn’t different pavement, this entire road is a perfect lake of ice, like a skating rink. The car had been stopped dead in his tracks by how slippery the ice was heading uphill.

The driver, apparently unfamiliar with driving on skating rinks, just kept giving it more and more gas, but wasn’t budging an inch. Smoke began to billow out from under his tires, until we were enveloped in a huge cloud of smoke. Uh yeah, I need to get away from this guy before he totally loses control of his car. I shifted in reverse right as a larger SUV pulled up behind me. I stopped.

The SUV swung around us and attempted to pass the car using the oncoming lane. A somewhat risky move, but one I was considering myself. The SUV reached the same spot in the road and stopped dead, his wheels spinning. Uhm, nope, we’ve got to get out of here. I backed up gingerly about six feet. As soon as I touched the brakes we began to slide backwards off the road, toward the ditch. I turned the wheel gently and brought us to a precarious stop. Lacey was starting to spazz out.

“Lace, we’re going to be okay, I’ve driven on ice a lot. Everything’s going to be fine.” I performed the slowest three-point turn in history and steered us gently down the mountain, as the SUV turned around to follow us.

As far as I know, that car is still on the mountain, spinning its tires.

The only other option was a 2-hour detour to avoid the mountain entirely, which pissed off Google Maps greatly. I naively thought this was the lowland route, but it actually took us through even higher elevations than the first mountain road had. Thankfully there were no lakes of ice on this road, but this was only a slight consolation to remember every time we’d hit the sporadic apocalypses of ice that did adorn the road. We’d be zipping along at 65 on a bone dry road, then suddenly skipping across helter skelter smears of ice, trying to tap the brakes only when our tires touched the little patches of dry road scattered throughout the ice. Good god, don’t they salt the roads here? Dumb question. New Mexico’s winter road maintenance credo is clearly “Let Nature Take Its Course.”

In time we reached the town of Chinle, and in the morning we were up to see the sun rise over Canyon de Chelly.

Canyon de Chelly was the Navajo stronghold during their conflicts with the US Army during the 1800s. The government’s forced relocation of the Navajo was thwarted by the canyon’s impenetrable geography and countless places to hide.

It's also a popular tourist spot for vacationing horses.

Photo by Lacey Watkin

We took in the canyon’s many scenic viewpoints and hiked down to the White House ruins at the base of the canyon.

Taking in Spider Rock at the canyon’s deepest point, I remembered reading once about somebody climbing that thing. Yikes.

After Canyon de Chelly we set our sights on the West Rim of the Grand Canyon, a side I’d never been to before, to take in the Plexiglas Skywalk that arcs out over the canyon floor. About an hour from the canyon I looked down distractedly during a conversation and realized we were nearly out of gas. And utterly in the middle of nowhere. Uh-oh. I pulled over and figured out that the only way to guarantee that we wouldn’t run out of gas in the middle of the desert was to head in the wrong direction for a half hour and get gas in the town of Meadview. The problem was we didn’t have much daylight left, and even the Grand Canyon is singularly unimpressive at night.

So as we raced to Meadview, through more Joshua trees than I think even Joshua Tree has, we discussed what the fastest possible way to get gas would be. Should we just get two gallons and fill up again when we get there? Nah, that would only save like a minute. We’d have to just fuel up fast and haul ass to get to the rim.

Meadview was a bizarre sleepy town inexplicably in the middle of nowhere, based on the name I’m assuming you could see Lake Mead from the other side of it and some people were of the mistaken belief that this was a nice place to retire. The gas station was aggravatingly all the way on the other end of town. I hopped out and jammed my card into the pump. It made a confused sound. Huh? Oh, Meadview doesn’t take American Express, fine. I think that was a commercial back in the 80s. Visa it is then.

I pumped gas as fast as it can be pumped, peeled out of the station backwards, and… where’s Tyler? Tyler was gone. Several minutes passed while we contemplated leaving Tyler wherever he was and picking him up on the way back. More minutes passed and he came out of the gas station with a couple bottles of water.

Zero points for situational awareness, dude.

From there we raced to the West Rim at completely inadvisable speeds, up and down the looping road. At one point I realized I was going 85 in a 35, but there was no time to worry about this. Hilariously, at another moment some guy passed us like we were going 40 on the freeway with our turn signal on, I don’t know if that guy had to pee bad or what. At some point I remember Lacey saying “Wow, 95, I’ve never gone this fast in a car before” and I had to admit to her that we’d hit 110 earlier that day while she was asleep. “What??” Never mind. We made a liar out of Google Maps and did the 50 minute drive to the West Rim in 20 minutes.

The West Rim was an absolute circus, minus everything fun about the circus. Security guards in the parking lot checked us for drones or guns and I sprinted into a huge inflatable building to get us tickets for the Skywalk. It was a few minutes before 5pm and although their website said they closed at 6, I didn’t want to take any chances with unposted winter hours or any shenanigans like that. I ran up to the counter and the girl there flatly informed me in a minimum wage tone of voice that the Skywalk cut off was at 4:30pm. 6pm is just when their gift shop closes.

Thanks a lot internet.

I’ll be taking one of those “I Risked Life and Limb to Make It To the West Rim of the Grand Canyon By 5pm And All I Got Was This Stupid Tee Shirt” shirts and I’ll be going, thank you very much.

Although it was a bit of a bummer not to get to look down through the Plexiglas and stare death in the face, we had locked death in a staring contest continuously for the entire drive over there, so it hardly mattered. The whole complex was such a commercialized mess it kind turned us all off of the concept anyhow, and Whitesnake wasn’t even playing there. We piled in the car and headed back to LA.

Photo by Lacey Watkin

Passing through Las Vegas on the way back, I was startled by how busy the air there felt. It was obvious you’d just driven into a wall of people and emotions concentrated together all in one place. Quite a contrast after four days in the open desert. Try to leave that all in Vegas, you guys.

Chapter 5: Eureka, By Way of Purgatory

After Christmas came and went I made my way up to my mom’s in Eureka, up in Northern California. My flight was delayed leaving LA and we missed the connection in San Francisco, meaning I had a 2 hour wait for the next flight. I took stock of the vegan food options in my terminal, audibly said “Nope!” and dialed up a Lyft. San Francisco is plugged in enough for me to get a Lyft Line, which is like a cheaper Uber since they pick up multiple passengers going in the same direction like a carpool. The elderly Chinese Lyft driver apparently hadn’t been paying attention to his phone since he was totally bewildered when I hopped into his car.

I explained. “Oh, okay. I take you to IKEEEES?” “Ike’s, yeah.” The drive was uneventful until we approached Ike’s, a vegan friendly sandwich shop in San Mateo. “This it?” “Yep!” “This restaurant.” “Yep!” “You take Lyft to get sandwich?” “Yep!” “REALLY?”

Calm down guy. I got two sandwiches.

I Lyfted back to the airport and enjoyed my sandwiches while an unsupervised child raised hell all around the gate.


Yeah that sign probably didn’t need to be there. He somehow got into the gate desk and took out the telephone, then threw it at a dog. It sat on the floor, off the hook as he tore ass after something else that had caught his attention.


The kid took off down the terminal hallway and was gone.


Yeah. There’s another sign still standing here, kid.

The next few flights to Eureka were all delayed or cancelled for one reason or another and I ended up stuck at SFO from 9am until 7pm. I tried to make use of the time by calling the post office, which hadn’t been able to deliver one of my Christmas gifts to my cousin due to a typo in the address. I spent over an hour on the phone with their automated voice system trying to get the package rerouted.

It went something like this:



“I’m sorry, I don’t understand 1352 Caattentionallpassengersflight1793todesmoinsisnowdeparting.”


“I’m sorry, I don’t understand 135 wouldthepassengerwiththeunattendedchild, please spell your address again.”


“I’m sorry, I don’t understand-” <disconnect>

After literally 90 minutes of this I finally got my correct address into the system and verified that the package would be delivered the next day.

(They returned it to the sender instead.)

Finally arriving in Eureka that night, my mom, brother and my sister-in-law Libby (the latest free agent to join our team) all met me at the airport, dressed head to toe as Santa’s elves. I was in no way ready for this. It turned out they’d got dressed and ready all over again each of the six times my flight was supposed to arrive in Eureka. You guys deserve a medal.

Two of my mom’s friends had planned to meet me at the airport posing as FBI agents, to question me about my time in North Korea. But sadly, they had given up after the third flight delay.

The next day we went to see The Last Jedi at a charming theater in Arcata. Watching a movie after my experience at Shiprock was a strange experience. In the days since our visit, I had grown accustomed to shifting my consciousness into that vast open space, recognizing whenever something was triggering it to dilate back down to smallness, and consciously letting whatever that was go.

Watching a movie felt like having all that vastness stuffed into a tiny box. Feel this now. Think about this now. Care about this now. Have this experience, right now. I was aware for the first time of the way a movie stamps our consciousness into a certain shape, like a giant cookie cutter. We’re so used to having this done to us all day long, by movies, music, books, news, we don’t really find it odd or even notice. I suddenly found it very odd and unnatural-feeling.

Leaving the theater, I felt an intense desire to have my mental freedom back, that peaceful expanse of the desert, that blank slate. The street was quiet and lined with fog, and as I exhaled, I felt the ideas and emotions of the movie falling out of my head with each breath. The mental constructs dismantling, unwinding. In time there was just the quiet.

My mom, a hardcore book junkie, wanted to check out the used book store across the street. As we walked through the rows of bookshelves, I quickly felt overwhelmed. Every book, a bundle of mental constructs waiting to stamp onto my mind, crowding out that freedom of being present, being at peace. I didn’t even want to look at the words on the book spines. I looked at the ceiling and out the window. After a while this got silly and I just walked outside into the stillness. Up the street, someone was flying a kite quietly up into the fog.

Chapter 6: The Sweat

That night we attended a sweat ceremony on the reservation where my mom works as a therapist. I’d done the same thing last December but this time Aster and Libby and my recently ex-stepdad Rick were joining us, which promised a new experience.

The last sweat I’d been to featured maybe a dozen participants. At least 30 had shown up for this one. We were shoulder to shoulder inside the lodge as the hot stones started coming in through the flap. I was sitting right up against the pit of stones, where the heat is the most intense, as I had done last year.

Thirteen stones came in, medicinal herbs were vaporized on their hot surface, and water was poured on them that turned into a wall of steam that pushes right through you.

“These are new stones from Shasta.”

Native songs are sung and we went around in a spiral, each sharing our prayers for friends, family and the new year. I prayed for my uncle’s health, for my dad and cousin to rediscover the joy in life, and for my niece Ava to never lose it. After the prayer, something shifted inside me and I began to feel the heat much more intensely.

After the first round, the flap opened and another set of 13 stones came in out of the huge fire outside the lodge. Herbs, water, steam. I began to feel a strange tingling in my stomach, as if I hadn’t eaten all day. I thought back and realized I’d eaten plenty. The tingle grew more intense as a panicky feeling of emptiness spread outward from my stomach. This is very strange.

The empty tingling feeling continued to spread through me, and it suddenly came to me that last year during the sweat I’d been cleansed of everything I’d taken on during my bear medicine experience at Standing Rock that November. Sweated it all out. I suddenly realized I’d never had any cleansing like that after my second bear medicine experience in Nagasaki this summer. So here I was.

The heat built up inside me and pushed right up against what I could handle. Last year I’d sat right next to the stones for all four rounds and hadn’t budged, but this time was something different. Something began to twist inside my abdomen, and incongruously I felt hands reaching inside me, gripping and wringing out my intestines. Squeezing and kneading. Oh God.

What I thought was the fourth round began, but somebody said it was only the third. My sense of time skidded sideways off the road. The kneading inside me grew more intense and I saw clearly that to truly release everything that needed to be cleansed, I’d have to let go of everything I was holding on to. Including letting go of the strength of will I was using to tolerate the heat. I let go and a huge wave of emotion poured out of me. The room swam around me in the dark. My body went limp and I flopped backwards into the lap of the person sitting behind me.

Oh man I hope that’s Rick.

Rick’s take: “I wasn’t sure where Sean was in the dark and then someone’s head was in my lap. Oh hey, it’s Sean!”

I thought about crawling out of the lodge to get out of the heat but there was no way my legs were going to cooperate with that. I was along for the whole ride. I laid my face down in the cool wet mud and breathed as the ceremony continued. The water spilling out of the pit of stones flowed around me. The ghostly hands continued to twist and wring and knead my insides.

Sometime during the fourth round I began to feel less like a plate of Jell-O and was able to sit up. In the glow of the hot stones I could see that half the people had bailed at some point. The fourth round was the hottest of them all, the steam feeling like an actual flame against my skin.

When it was over I crawled outside and was blown away to see that Libby had made it through all four rounds. British people are not world-renowned for their heat tolerance, so a big kudos to her. At the end, you walk around the fire and hug each person who was in the lodge with you, thanking them for their prayers. There’s an amazing bond of togetherness as you stand nearly naked in the 40 degree cold, all thrilled to no longer be breathing the steamy sweat off of Satan’s balls.

The world was tilting and pitching around me and I had to put an arm on Aster’s shoulder to manage the walk back into the building. Sitting down without incident was an accomplishment, food or a shower were far beyond my capabilities at that moment. As I sat, my consciousness expanded out of my body behind me, like a giant hood, then gradually expanded to fill the entire room. From across the room I saw my body sitting slumped in the corner, badly in need of a Gatorade.

Startlingly soon it was time to go, and I struggled to pick up my towel, which weighed approximately a hundred pounds from soaking up most of the lake I had been laying in, inside the lodge. I stood and looked at the folding chair I had been sitting in, which was now covered in mud. I swiped at it with the towel, which just made it wetter and more muddy, before I was corralled out the door.

My brother, god bless him, was more than 10% inside his body at that point and managed to get us electrolyte drinks on the way home. Inside, I stumbled into the shower, after a brief glance into the mirror to confirm that I indeed looked like a hobo who had been camouflaged to hide in the woods. Mid-shower I looked down and frowned at the deplorable state of my mom’s shower, before realizing that all the leaves, twigs and assorted turf swirling around the tub had been stuck to my body.

The next day I went to get in the car and thought “Damn mom, clean your car!” before I realized that morass was just the seat I had been sitting in after the sweat. My brother wisely sold this car a few weeks later.

Chapter 7: Me And The Stargate

I wrote in my travels last winter about meditating in a grid of crystal orbs called a Stargate Astrum in Los Angeles. After that trip, when I got home I was curious about what other people’s experiences there had been like. So I Googled “stargate experience.” This promptly took me to, the website for a totally unrelated spiritual group based out of Mount Shasta, California. They were working with a large sacred geometry device they were calling a Stargate (sadly, utterly unrelated to the Richard Dean Anderson television show), which they said could be used in meditation to reach the states of consciousness necessary to interact with higher beings like angels, ascended masters, and Elon Musk. I thought “Huh,” eloquently, and saved a bookmark before telling Google no, goddammit, I meant this other thing.

A day or two later I found myself drawn back to the site again, and watched one of their YouTube videos that briefly demonstrated how to work with the Stargate. Sitting there at my desk at work, I felt my consciousness shift dramatically upwards and I got dizzy. This is only supposed to happen at work on Whippet Wednesdays, so suffice it to say I was impressed.

At home (where I could safely fall out of my chair and speak in tongues if necessary, without anyone calling the police), I tried another video, with an even stronger result. This time I could feel my hands vibrating, like all of the atoms in my body were spinning far faster than normal. Normally I’d have to meditate intensely for an hour to feel anything remotely like this, and here it was happening easily within two minutes. Hmm.

I bit the bullet, ordered my own Stargate, and in a week or so it came. The site said to hang it over your bed for the first few nights to connect in. I wouldn’t exactly call what I did that first night sleeping, as I mostly remember waking up 17 times, seemingly in a different dimension each time, deeply mystified and bewildered. It was extremely interesting and the polar opposite of restful. I decided I was connected in enough and started meditating with the Stargate the next day.

Doing the first guided meditation, we called for the presence of Buddha, and I paused for a moment wondering what I should picture him to look like. Big, round, bald guy? Then, suddenly, I saw him standing in the darkness in front of my closed eyes.

He looked nothing like any painting or statue I’d ever seen. Here was a thin, dark-skinned Indian man. But the thing was, I recognized him instantly and deeply. I knew him. The same way you’d feel if your mom or your brother was standing in front of you. This utterly shocked me. In one instant, the Buddha had gone from this abstract concept, this figurehead of a major world religion, to this dude I know. Did I know him from having experiences like this in some Buddhist monk past life of mine? Or had I actually known him personally in his lifetime as Gautama the Buddha? Either way, it felt exactly like being reunited with an old friend.

Next, we were to call in a teacher or guide who had been important to you in a past life. A pretty open-ended prompt. Just as quickly, a Tibetan monk was standing in front of me. In one of the most surreal experiences of my life, I instantly recognized him as a beloved teacher from my past life in Tibet. I’d never had any concept or inkling of him before that moment, not a single memory from that life even, and then in the next second it all came back to me like I had never forgotten, and I was overwhelmed with the emotion of being reunited with him.

Goddamn. Thanks Google.

Actually it’s funny since I often find myself searching around online idly, and I’ll realize I’m searching for some deeper answers about the meaning of life that the internet can’t provide. And so I always joke that you can’t Google your way to enlightenment. But damn, maybe you can.

For the rest of the year, I continued to work with the Stargate daily, and more and more beings came to me. Some spoke, some were just loving presences. This was a huge paradigm shift for me since my spiritual path has always just been based on Zen meditation, sitting with a silent mind. I’ve had all kinds of amazing experiences, but they never involved any teachers or higher beings that I was aware of.

All of this had kind of a funny “full-circle” quality to it since my mom had raised my brother and I in what they call the ascended master teachings, which is based on the concept that all the people who have attained enlightenment in the past are hanging around on higher levels and are there to give you guidance if you ask for it. This was, frankly, never very real to me growing up. I was raised amongst a smorgasbord of different spiritual ideas, my mom providing a mix of the ascended masters, Buddhism, and the Catholicism she grew up with, me growing up primarily in a house with my Mormon aunt, uncle and cousins and occasionally going to church with them, and my dad adding in his deep dedication to the church of “Fuck It Let’s Watch TV.”

I became interested in Taoism as a teenager and dabbled in meditation and yoga until I had my big spiritual awakening during a visit to a Tibetan Buddhist monastery at the age of 27. But even as I became very serious about meditation, I never really joined any groups or took on any dogma. I’d meditate with the Tibetan monks one day, new-age yoga people the day after, and with the sort-of Hindus at the Self Realization Fellowship temple the next day. My mom and brother continued their intense involvement with the ascended master teachings over the years, and I attended events with them here or there, but it never really spoke to me.

But now suddenly the ascended masters were speaking to me, literally. This was all the convincing my mom needed and soon she was attending Stargate events in Mount Shasta herself. And by the summertime I was so familiar with the practices that I was interacting with Kobo Daishi in Japan, no Stargate in sight. In December I was finally in the right part of the country again and my mom and I were off to a four-day Stargate retreat.

On the way out of Eureka, we stopped for a quick walk up the beach. The beach disappeared into a void of foggy nothingness ahead of us and behind, like we were walking on a treadmill of reality that we were making up as we went along, like a visit to the holodeck. I talked about how I’d grown up with self-effacing modesty as the highest virtue in my mind, the idea that “thinking you’re something you’re not” is the worst thing a person can do. But after my experience at Shiprock I’d started to see this in a different light, started to see how very limiting this concept was. It’s difficult to experience anything that lies beyond what you believe yourself capable of.

And though I’m not a conspiracy theorist by nature, it occurred to me that a great way to control people would be to instill strict societal constructs surrounding what it’s okay to believe about yourself, and to ridicule anyone who wandered beyond those bounds. Stay in your lane.

I laughed as I thought about Donald Trump. As much as I wasn’t a fan of his, his entire being seemed to serve as a perfect reinforcement of these artificial limitations. A cautionary tale. For those of us who aren’t under his sway, here’s this wildly unselfconscious buffoon, who thinks he’s all kinds of great things that he clearly is not. A foolishly transparent braggart. To anyone not wearing a MAGA hat, this was a glaring reminder of everything not to be as a person, right? God, wouldn’t it be crazy if that’s all this was about, a jester to shame us all into making ourselves smaller?

The Stargate intensive was taking place in Mt Shasta, a small mountain town in Northern California full of spiritual seekers and healers, salted through with a sprinkling of yokels and hillrods. The mountain looms above from all vantage points around the town, radiating an intense energy that you can feel even from the freeway. I wondered about all the thousands of people who drive by on the 5 interstate every day, if they feel uplifted and connect this to the mountain or just figure the Diet Rock Star finally kicked in.

The story goes that a spiritual city called Telos exists beneath the mountain, populated by ancient Lemurians who noped out of the physical form when the island of Lemuria sank, and have been chilling in a higher dimension within the Earth ever since.

The intensive was taking place in a nice big house out in the woods, the centerpoint of the upstairs living room being a giant ten-foot tall Stargate, which dwarfed my charming little 15” tall model at home. And again, this is totally unrelated to the Kurt Russell movie, unless that movie had hidden depths that I didn’t notice at the time due to being distracted by nachos.

Photo by Amy

One of the two channels, Julieanne, was registering all of the attendees as they came in. I gave her my name.

“Ah. Sean Traverses the world!”

Ha ha, you have no idea.

The gathering had initially been intended to be capped at 12 participants, but after their Thanksgiving retreat went so well they’d expanded this one to 30 people. Then something went wrong on their website to where it kept accepting registrations even after the cut-off and we ended up with 44 of us there. The room was quite full, the couches lining the walls supplemented by chairs placed anywhere one would fit.

To break the ice, we passed the microphone around and everyone told their story of how they’d come to be there. Most were Stargate regulars, though a few like me were at their first event. When it was my turn, I talked about my 15 years of meditation, and how two years ago I’d started to feel stuck and like I wasn’t progressing the way I wanted to, and how I’d branched out into exploring new things spiritually. I told the story of accidentally Googling my way to the Stargate.

I talked about how I’d began feeling a deep calling to travel, and specifically to some of the most repressed places in the world. About how I’d realized that while I did have something to gain from going to these places, even more importantly, I had an energy within me that needed to be brought to all of these locations. How it had taken me a while to realize this and longer to accept it, as the very concept felt arrogant to me at first. I talked about how I was opening my mind as fast as I could to accept all the new and strange things I was experiencing. And about how I was terrified of sharing them with most of the people in my life, as I didn’t want to lose people’s respect and have my friends and coworkers decide that I was crazy.

I talked about writing this blog, and how I’d write about my travels, but leave out the most “out there” experiences for fear of putting people off and changing their opinion of me. But how, the more intense my spiritual experiences became, I realized it was a lie not to write about them. I wasn’t truly telling the story of my travels if I left these things out, and I wasn’t giving people the benefit of the doubt that they could gain something from reading about my experiences, both inner and outer. They might surprise me and have sides of themselves they’d been afraid to show me before.

This became very clear after my trip to Japan, which was so intense it was impossible to write about without getting into the spiritual stuff. After posting that blog entry, I went back to my past entries and added all the things I’d left out before, about talking to elementals in England and Scotland, my reality-warping encounter with an Easter Island head in France, and my inner child realizations in Japan. All the responses from people to this were surprisingly positive, my fears unfounded.

I’d realized that people’s reactions were about them, not me. Anyone who wasn’t on board with what I was experiencing was on their own path, and as people who didn’t resonate flowed away, new people would flow in to take their place. There was no need to hold on to anything out of fear.

The act of going around this room and introducing ourselves ended up being pretty magical, as by the end of it I felt close to every person in that room. When we came back for day two, I was amazed at how I suddenly had 42 new friends. I was talking to someone at lunch that day when a little voice in the back of my head said “You’ve been hiding.” And it was true. I’d been hiding this side of myself for most of my life. I’d never sought out a group to join and had never had this experience of what it’s like to be with people who you don’t need to hide yourself from.

On the second day we had the opportunity to take the microphone and talk about what we’d been struggling with spiritually, and to receive a channeled response. Mine went something like this:

“About a dozen years ago I had a series of experiences of what I consider enlightenment to be. My consciousness suddenly expanded far beyond anything I’d experienced before, or since. I could see every moment of my life like it had just happened, even every dream, in an unbroken string of consciousness stretching back to birth. When I spoke to someone, I could hear the conversation my higher self was having with their higher self at the same time. And I could even see that the higher conversation was encoded in the words we were speaking on the physical. I experienced such intense joy.

Walking through the grocery store, I came upon a big scary biker guy. But instead of having that judgment, suddenly I saw him through the eyes of his little daughter, to whom he was not scary at all, he was love. I was overwhelmed, standing and crying in the grocery store.

I could see into other dimensions, so much information flowing in, to the point where my physical brain could not contain it all. It was the most exciting thing I’ve ever experienced.

This happened three or four times and I thought ‘This is it! This will keep happening more and more frequently until I am enlightened all the time.’ Only it didn’t. The experiences petered out and never returned, and I was left to wonder what I’d done wrong. Not enough dedication? The wrong practice? Over the years I fell into what I now realize was a depression as I felt like I had failed.

I understand that we’re all moving slowly toward enlightenment to bring everyone else along with us. But I don’t understand how I could feel so close then, and yet so far away now.”

The response came that this was a taste of enlightenment, meant to be shared to give others a preview of what we would all be experiencing one day. It was closer than I thought. The only mistake I’d made was to judge myself. Celebrate what I’d experienced, rather than allowing the mind to grasp and try to possess that which cannot be possessed. Be open to new and different experiences rather than clinging to what came before.

Beyond the words being spoken in answer to my question, there was a tangible loving energy being directed to me. My worry and self-judgment dissolved and were gone. I had just let it go. I had been grasping, but now there was no need.

After the session, numerous people came up to me and shared their own similar experiences, how what I’d said had been meaningful to them and how they’d slowly learned to let go of that self-judgment themselves.

I’d done a few other Stargate intensives remotely over the past year, where you get the recordings of the meditations and take part from home. I figured going to a retreat in person would be much the same, only the meditations would probably be more intense in person. This was absolutely true, but I hadn’t anticipated that even this would be dwarfed by the significance of the interaction with everyone else in the group between the sessions. Not only to get to share what was inside you and be supported, but to spend four days with people who could truly see what was inside you.

I’ve never been complimented so many times in four days, as people reflected back to me the spiritual work I’d done. “You have so much light!” Attainments that go absolutely unnoticed in the everyday outside world were plainly obvious to everyone here. It was like a full frontal assault on my internal wall of restrictive modesty. This experience dovetailed perfectly with what I’d seen at Shiprock. I’d been holding myself back by holding to the limited version of myself that everyone else had reflected back to me all my life. It was time to grow beyond that.

Throughout the four days at the Stargate, my mom was knitting me a scarf. One by one, in time nearly every person in attendance came up to her and commented on it. “You remind me of my mom with that knitting!” “I love that you’re knitting, I feel like you’re knitting this group together!” “You remind me of my mom.” “My mom used to knit, she knitted me this sweater.” “Your knitting makes me feel at peace.” “You remind me of my mom.”

A few days into the intensive my mom turned to me and said she’d just realized that she had been every person in that room’s mother in a past life. As much as that seemed incredible, confirmation came relentlessly as people kept coming up to us and telling her she reminded them of their mother, to the point of my mom eventually saying “Okay, I believe it now! Enough with the confirmations, ha ha.”

Likewise our mother-son relationship seemed to be on display for a meaningful purpose, as people kept complimenting us on our closeness and talked about their hopes for their relationship with their mother, or their son.

The guided group meditations on the first day had focused on some pretty cosmic stuff, none of which I saw behind my closed eyes. Instead, I kept seeing scenery, landscapes. Mountains. Deserts. Mountains. Deserts. I figured it was because I’d just come from that road trip through the desert. I was, however, impressed by the continual stream of visuals all through the meditation. Normally I get brief, fleeting images at best when I meditate.

During my meditations on day two there were more mountains and more deserts. Then it dawned on me. I know the Earth pretty well. I’ve been around and have researched the places I haven’t been to. And I didn’t recognize any of these mountain ranges I was hovering above in my visions. Where was I?

Part of the new age paradigm is that we’re all from somewhere else in space, originally. We had some other home planet long ago before we began reincarnating on Earth. Was that what I was seeing?

On one of the first days of the intensive, I was chatting with Neal from Chicago when a fellow attendee named Kimberly pulled me aside out of the blue to share something that she’d seen. She said I had a spirit guide that was holding me back, overprotectively, ever since I’d been killed in a past life for being spiritually aware in a time and place when that kind of thing wasn’t good for your health. We proceeded to do energy work sessions during the breaks to release this limitation.

This is just the kind of thing that happened there every day, no biggie. It hadn’t even occurred to me that some of the attendees there would be professional healers. Several people expressed surprise that I had such a boring job.

Chapter 8: Happy New Universe

Before the sessions started on day 3, my mom and I drove up Mount Shasta to snowshoe around amongst the trees and snowy slopes in the early morning hours. Trekking up the mountain side in the light of the sunrise, my mom stopped me.

“Sean, the Telosians just spoke to me. They said to put my face up against this tree, and when I did I felt myself lifted way up. I realized that’s the energy of the tree to go up like that. You should try it.”

I put my face against the needles of a nearby tree and closed my eyes. I didn’t go up, but instead felt myself spiral all the way around the outside of the mountain and return back to where I was standing. Oop. Might barf. That was interesting.

I hiked further up the hill and asked the Telosians if they had any messages for me.

Inside my head, a voice said “You are not alone.” Hmmm.

Back at the Stargate for the first meditation of the day, my visions shifted away from the mountains and the deserts for the first time. Instead I saw faces. A series of crystal clear faces. They were all in the same room there with us, as if I had opened my eyes and was looking around the room. Hey, that’s so and so- wait, they’re not here. It gradually dawned on me that none of the people I was seeing were there in the room with us. But I still felt recognition at seeing them, and I saw their faces so clearly.

Part of the paradigm of the Stargate meditations is that they tap into the quantum realm, beyond time and space, so that even if you’re doing a meditation with a recording weeks after an event, within the meditation you’re connecting in with the original group as the live meditation is happening. Was that what I was seeing, all the people who would be doing the meditations remotely in the coming weeks? You are not alone. Hmm.

On the afternoon of the third day we got to one of the two main meditations the retreat was focused around, which involved drawing in energy from a new universe. I wasn’t sure how that was supposed to work, but the energy in the room had been so overwhelmingly intense in all the previous meditations, it seemed like anything was possible. We progressed deeper and deeper into the guided meditation.

As the channel, Prageet, was speaking the words, I began to see the concepts visually in my mind’s eye. Then I began to hear the words in my mind, too. Only I was hearing them a good 15 seconds before Prageet spoke them out loud. Okay, this is new. The room pulsed with energy and my awareness of the physical space flickered on and off as we drew the new energy in.

At the end of the meditation, Prageet told us to go outside and release that new energy into nature. My entire body was buzzing as I felt overwhelmed with energy. I could barely walk. Speaking was out of the question. I wandered through the woods and down the road. By the creek I walked up to a large tree, put my hands on it and closed my eyes.

I generally have a decent ability to tune into trees, if I put my hands on them I can feel down into the roots and up into the branches. Very occasionally I can see from the top of the tree looking down. I tuned into this tree and felt movement.

The tree began to sway back and forth. This, to put it mildly, was not expected. This was a huge tree that shouldn’t be moving at all. I stepped back and opened my eyes. Nothing was moving. Hands on the tree again, eyes closed.

The tree swayed back and forth dramatically, several feet in each direction. Oh my God, I’m going to push this tree down! We’re both going to end up in the creek, this is no good at all.

I opened my eyes. No movement.

Closed them again. Back and forth. Finally I realized what I was feeling wasn’t the tree physically moving, it was intense waves of energy pulsing between my body and the tree, as I was releasing everything I’d tapped into in that meditation. I stood there for a few more minutes until the pulsing subsided.

Walking back up the road, I laughed at the thought of the mountain folk who live around there, having to deal with new age weirdos stumbling up the road in a daze and hugging trees. Hopefully they’re amused.

That night we went out with all the Stargate people for a New Year’s Eve dinner at one of Shasta’s three restaurants. This was only a minor variation on all of our other visits to town, where we ran into multiple people from our group in every store we wandered into. Mount Shasta is not a huge town.

My mom had warned me before the intensive from her previous experience that as it went on, I’d realize that I’d known all of these people in past lives, that it wasn’t just a random assortment of people who’d ended up in a room together. And she was completely right. Every day surprised me as I felt more and more love for and familiarity with different members of the group, some I had barely even interacted with during our time there.

The next morning, my mom and I headed back up the mountain to see the sunrise, inviting several members of the group to join us.

Sitting by the side of the road, on the edge of the steep mountainside, we waited as the horizon glowed in the dark, unveiling countless layers of mountains and hills off into the distance. Precisely at the moment the first ray of the sun pierced between the trees on the horizon, a woodpecker hammered on a tree on the mountainside below us, like a rooster announcing the dawn.

As the sun rose into the sky, the sounds of birds waking up and calling out echoed down the mountainside. I was struck, very intensely, by the sacredness of this moment. I could feel it radiating up the slopes. I thought about us sitting here, in awe of this beautiful moment, and how all of these birds wake up like this every morning. They’re never outside of this moment, they just exist, sacred and present in their eternal presence. It seemed absurd to me that we were so asleep, as to only experience this once in a very great while, if ever. We claim dominion over all of this and yet we know it the least of all the living things.

The golden light of the sunrise glowed on all the trees on the mountainside, overwhelming the senses. For the first time in my life I felt myself utterly at one with nature, I felt like I was experiencing the sunrise the way the birds and the trees and the mountain themselves did.

I asked the Telosians if they had a message for me today.

“You are as beautiful as all of this” was the response. Wow, that’s hard to accept but I see what you’re going for there. Thank you. As my embarrassed modesty crawled up the back of my throat I suddenly saw it, I saw that I was one with those trees and the birds, the mountain and the sun. And to see their beauty but to deny it in yourself is to fail to recognize the truth of that oneness, to fall into an illusion of duality.

It suddenly dawned on me that this was the first sunrise of the new year. I wondered what 2018 would bring. I felt my feet sink deep into the Earth in an unshakably solid stance. I felt strong. I felt like Shiprock. This is going to be an interesting year.

Photo by random mountain guy

Our Stargate friends departed to find a warm coffee shop before that day’s sessions began, and my mom and I headed down the mountain to find Ascension Rock, a spot on the mountain famed for its intense energies. After a very minor detour of driving 20 miles in exactly the opposite direction, we found it. Actually there’s some confusion as two different spots are called Ascension Rock, and people debate over which is the real one and which is just the Ascension Rock for tourists. We hit both just to be safe.

The first one was the one for me. As we pulled off the road and ran up the hill, I could feel energy buzzing up out of the Earth in a way I never had before. Halfway up, I saw an Earth elemental zip behind a tree stump. Higher up, the energy grew more and more intense. Wow! Up top, huge boulders were perched ominously on the hill. Ascension Rock. Depending on who you ask, climbing to the top of them is either the thing to do or immensely disrespectful. I split the difference and climbed them with great respect.

Photo by Sheila O'Donnell

My mom indulged one of her favorite hobbies, snapping photos that capture strange emanations and balls of color in the sunlight.

Photo by Sheila O'Donnell

The trees around the rocky outcrop were covered in a neon moss that was practically radioactive in its glow.

Hiking back down the hillside, I extended my hands out and felt the tingle of energy rushing up through them from the ground. Crazy.

We drove to the other Ascension Rock and I sat on that one too, so as not to leave one rock jealous of the other. The energy was much mellower here, and clearly this spot got a lot more traffic from people, as it was right next to the road.

Back at the Stargate, we ran through the final day’s meditations, which involved bringing in more new energy. During the final meditation of the day, I went deep inside and found myself walking along a cliff trail somewhere very remote. It felt like I was in Native American times, or perhaps even prehistoric. Neanderthal maybe. Standing there, I became keenly aware of all of the mental baggage I was carrying, my thoughts, my personality, my entire sense of self. And, as if it was a simple thing, I just dropped all of that off the cliff, and it all plummeted down out of sight.

All I was left with was my conscious awareness. This was a deeply striking experience, both profoundly beautiful and frightening. I’ve been meditating for many years, and consider myself to be pretty good at achieving a silent mind. But I realized in this moment that I’d always experienced mental silence from within the shell of my personality. My sense of self was always a comfortable rocking chair I was reclining in as I experienced the lack of thought. But now all of that was gone, and I was just pure, unfiltered awareness in the eternal now.

The previous day someone at the intensive had talked about an aspect of their life they were afraid to let go of. And they realized the question causing the fear in them was “Who am I without this?” Sitting there in absolute awareness, mind and self as I’d known them nowhere to be found, I touched that fear on a deep level. Who am I without this?

Perhaps 2018 will be the year to find out.

. . .

January 21, 2018
I love this one the best since you included the best parts, the spiritual parts. I love the pictures. I was only nervous when I realized you actually climbed Shiprock for real, since it is illegal, but then so is climbing in Canyon de Chelly, but I think only Spider Rock is truly not allowed there. Actually, who is going to arrest you for climbing Shiprock? But I know its also forbidden to climb Mt Kailash and I wondered if you would scamper up it when we are in Tibet later this year. I think the altitude might stop you.

January 21, 2018
Achieve more understanding, and you build more of you and less of the general baggage. At least I hope so.

I've seen and heard enough of birdsong at sunrise to be sure, they are hailing all of what there is in a sunrise.


Guatemala Hiking through the dark jungle, something sounded off in the distance. Jesus. What IS that? A low, guttural roar echoed out of the black night, like a cross between a lion roaring and a demon snoring. There could be anything out there.

Turkey I was comforted by the sight of an old lady walking up the alley. I wasn’t alone. I then asked myself what this lady was going to do if I was unceremoniously shoved into a van with a bag over my head (nothing, possibly belch) and suddenly felt less better.

France Then, in 1961 two old ladies were walking by the tomb when one of them exclaimed “The balls on that statue!” and seeing no other recourse to recover their dignity they picked up rocks and went into a ball-smashing frenzy, as elderly English ladies are known to do. Some say the dislodged testicles ended up as a paperweight on the cemetery caretaker’s desk. Others say they roam the streets to this very day, seeking a host.