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Aug 2013

How often are we drawn by our anxieties, by our fears and doubts, and fail to ask the bigger questions in life?

"Will there be Devil's Club?"

It was an unplanned meeting deep in the wilderness, and that was the only question the other group of climbers wanted to ask us.

In a remote valley in the Northern Cascade mountains, I had just led a Mazamas team up Luna Peak - the satellite peak and incredible viewpoint to the almost mythically remote Picket Range. Think massive old growth woods, uncertain river crossing, trailess navigation up a long side valley to a high basin - which we nicknamed Cirque des Etoiles once the late evening clouds magically cleared and the moon and stars emerged - and then a 4,000ft summit push over steep heather slopes, welcoming ribbons of late snow and a final rocky ridge that loomed out of the clouds like a childhood fantasy of mount Everest.

And here we were, having bushwhacked then hiked almost out to the trailhead, and encountering people for the first time on the trip. Surprisingly a team headed in for the same remote peak.

And, rather than the location of a log crossing, or hints for successful navigation through the maze of avalanche debris, all they could think to ask was whether their fears were true - would they indeed encounter the tall and spiky nemesis plant of northern cascades backwoods.

"Will there be Devil's Club?"

Yes. There will be Devil's Club in your future. And also Heartbreak and Loss. And probably wicked hard standing balances which you will fall out of. Or, if you excel at those, then holding forward folds until you think you will scream from the claustrophobia.

There will also be openings in the dark woods that lead to joy. And perhaps even in the discipline of the path, unexpected solace of companionship.

I have come to love these moments when our often-hidden inner-processing is laid bare by the raw nature of the physical world. It is why I love a spiritual practice that is tangible - such braving a remote climb or a challenging new yoga posture. Or sometimes a great Mary Oliver poem that weaves together natural beauty and vulnerable human nature.

Namaste - Eugene