Monday, June 8, 2015

Into Outdoor Education

Scouting a climbing area with GirlVentures staff at Pinnacles National Park, February 2015
I'm bemused at the turn life has taken. Two years ago, I'd never imagined working in outdoor education. My work life very much revolved around being in the city, in offices and libraries and coffee shops. Then I got the opportunity to work a backpacking trip with GirlVentures in April 2014, shortly after which I signed up for a 5-day Women of Color Backpacking trip with Balanced Rock Foundation which was, amazingly, co-led by a badass Khmer American woman. On that trip and beyond, I met more women of color who integrate outdoor trip leading into their lives, both professionally and personally.

From the NOLS WMI WFR Handbook
After I went to live and work at NOLS in Wyoming for nine weeks and encountered even more people who spent a big part of their lives outdoors, and though only a few of the people I met were Asian American, I gained more of that sense of permission and possibility that I gained from the Balanced Rock trip. I then signed up for a WMI Wilderness First Responder certification course using the Americorps Segal Education Award I'd earned as a Public Ally in Los Angeles back in 2012 (everything is connected). The course would have felt prohibitively expensive if not for that, which is also true of the Balanced Rock course I took-- I received tuition assistance for that, as well.

This past spring, I worked as an instructor on three courses run by GirlVentures: climbing at Pinnacles National Park with 6th grade girls, backpacking at Point Reyes National Seashore with 7th grade girls, and climbing at Castle Rock State Park with a mixed-gender group of high school students. It was exhilarating to spend all that time outdoors and to get to watch students transition from being squeamish about camping at all to happily digging catholes.

I would have loved to instruct on one of GV's summer courses if I weren't embarking on another trip on Wednesday: I'm heading to Alaska to spend 30 days backpacking in the Eastern Chugach Mountains with 3 NOLS instructors and a group of 12 students, age 16 &17. It will be my first time spending so long in the backcountry, my first time in Alaska, and my first time witnessing the NOLS progression.

I'm excited and nervous, which typically means I've made a good decision. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

After "In Defense of 'Busy'" // Life's Too Short to Hurry

Sean wrote about being busy.

The comings and goings and doings he describes are familiar to me. I'm not there any more, though. I can't say I'm busy in that way anymore. I'm not organizing or producing, and this month even my online writing has diminished as I throw myself into pottery (couldn't resist the pun). And the calm feels really good. Maybe it's part of my recently developed introversion.

There's that Howard Turman quote: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” I surely felt alive when I had a busier lifestyle, connecting with many people, holding and sharing space in various ways. But there was a point when it stopped making me feel alive and mostly made me feel tired. And for a time I was sort of frustrated with myself for stopping, and I mourned the passing of that past self, and I tried to recreate the desire to live that way. But the resistance was not necessary. I was pushing myself to interact with the world in ways that made me feel tired rather than alive.

There was no need for me to push myself to try to be busy-- there are so many ways to contribute to society, to social justice, and different ways to learn about being human, both by being around people and by being alone with ourselves.

The intention I set for this year is "Life's too short to hurry." A reminder to myself that life doesn't have to be frenetic to be exciting, and that there is value in slowness. Even though most of my days don't have much externally-imposed structure, I still create quite a bit of structure for myself.

On Wednesday, I wanted to climb, go to a yoga class, repair some camping gear, spend an hour or two at the ceramics studio, and go to the grocery store before work at the climbing gym at 4:30pm. I also wanted to feed myself and maybe do a little reading. While I was in the yoga class, I was asked to set an intention for the practice and for the day. In the course of the class, I realized that I was imposing a lot of unnecessary urgency into the day. If I could only spend an hour or two at the studio, it wasn't really worth it to go. And if I didn't make it to the grocery store before work, I'd be okay-- there was plenty of food in the house. Once I let myself let go of that urgency, I could feel my mood improving, and things feel lighter. I felt better about the day.

I respect the folks who spend a lot of time working, studying, organizing, going from here to there and everywhere. And I worry a bit, too, when they say they are busy. I avoid being "busy" now because of the way it makes me feel. It makes me feel like there is great time-scarcity in my life, and feelings of scarcity in whateverthing, be it affection, friendship, money, or time, leads to stress. Which leads to a wide array of other negative health and social implications.

Granted, things aren't always light. There are a lot of very dark and heavy things that we must cope with and change in this world. What I fear about "busyness" is that it sometimes feels like being pulled down into that darkness rather than like reaching in and pulling that darkness up to our light.

And it makes me all the more appreciative of those people in my life who are able to be busy and at the same time pull the darkness to light. (Sean is in that group.)

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Waking Alarmless

For the last year, I've been trying out waking up with my natural clock. Which is not to say that I just wake up when my body feels like it. I've been experimenting with setting an internal "intention-alarm." 

I noticed that I would often wake up well before my alarm if I were quite excited or anxious for something I had to wake up for. And last year, somehow, my body decided that it wanted to rise early. I spent much of the year waking up at dawn or earlier without an alarm. This changed a bit when the nights got much colder, but for the most part, I've been able to wake up within 5-10 minutes of my intended time. 

I joke with people that I use my own mental anxiety as an alarm. A friend said that this is a big indicator of my intraversion-- I have no problem getting up when it is my deep personal intention to do so. I think back to when I would set three alarms because I would successively turn each of them off, or I would be late after hitting the snooze button too many times. Some of my poor past roommates remember this behavior all too well. 

Now, if I have to wake up for something, I don't set an alarm. I didn't set an alarm for a dawn hike I meant to take on Friday. It seems that when I externalize my motivation/reminder to wake up, I instinctively try to defy it, even though it originated from me. I managed to get up at 4am as I intended, to make coffee, do my morning writing, dress, and have breakfast well before our meet-up time of 6:20am. 

I know that it is not just a result of my sleep cycle alone-- there have been days when I've set no real intention and slept in much later than when I do have an intention. 

Have you ever experimented with intention-alarms?