TIGHT SQUEEZE

I have been in a few caves in my life. Some with guides some not. Lewis and Clark Caverns comes to mind as an incredible example of the hollowed earths potential for beauty.

My sister in law and I have started a bit of a tradition to book some bucket list activities for our summer entertainments in Banff National Park. When she mentioned caving I paused. In the past I have sat in caves and watched others shimmy down a shaft or cotort their bodies into impossible crevices. I agreed to go and made a promise to myself that this time I would not sit and watch I would face my fear.

The hike up to Rats Nest Cave just outside of Canmore is an easy 45 minute warm up. We got some instructions from our guide on how to put the harness on under our coveralls which was comical to watch and do. I would be glad for the orange jump suit and knee pads once we got going into the cave.

The rock is quite slippery in places having been polished to a glass surface over the decades. There were ropes to help pull yourself up into the mouth of the cavern. You have to have upper body strength to leverage which I am lacking so it was challenging.

Caves are full of illusions. What appears to be impassable is the way forward. What is wide open and seems simple enough to pass can lead to a 100 foot drop or dead end. We went down 55 metres as we squeezed through rock piles, slid across bridge like formations and landed right by an underground little pool. You have to turn your lights off at this point. Everyone is always curious how it feels to be in the earth belly in the dark. The cave felt very young and fresh. It’s only 10 thousand years old which is nothing in cave years.

Rats Nest Cave Canmore Alberta

What you go down you must come back up. I had put that mantra in the back seat on the way down to worry about later.

It was later. We started back up and everything looked very different now. The easy parts had become hard the hard parts were now easy. You know you have come this way before and yet some how it appears to be uncharted. The guide said lift you leg up on a tiny notch half way up the sheer glass like wall. Then pull yourself up. Hmmm. What is option two? I made a couple of attempts then got some help with a borrowed knee to put my foot on.

It took some serious self talk about my abilities and realizing that unless I wanted to be pulled out if the cave it was up to me to now ascend back towards the surface. Push, pull, squeeze another inch forward and rest. I finally made it back to the entrance. I was feeling pretty elated. I did it!

Mind over matter. We often limit ourselves and resolve to live a watered down version of life. It feels empowering to push through the tight squeeze. It builds confidence for next we face our fears that we are capable of many things.

Work Aparent

I listen to my grown kids talk about their professions these days and wonder… will they ever find a profession they are passionate about? Is that even a thing anymore? You hear lots of stats that say we will change professions at least 4-5 times or more. I chatted a-bit with my daughter. She is thinking about making a change. After so much education involved in professions are we brave enough to walk away from the money and security to pursue something different? Do we owe it to ourselves to try? She said she is thinking about stopping renting her “self” out for labour. Hah, what a great way to put it. We all got to make a living but do we all get to make the most out of life? Someone mentioned universal income to me the other day. Should we have a society that pays us not to work when we chose not too? The world is such a different place these days. Maybe this is part of the shift and trend in thought? Time will tell.

As a parent, I have changed my views of traditional work theories for my kids. I have changed. Don’t just put your head down and do what pays your bills. Find something that gives you a sense of moving forward. Be brave and able to pivot even if you feel that you owe your profession something of yourself. You don’t, in fact the more the shift and change the more valuable you become to any company worth exploring.

W.A.I.T.

There is a badge you can get in the gift shop here at the ashram. It says Speech Awareness on it. Silence and speech awareness are part of the daily practice here. Meals are taken in silence and karma yoga is practiced with limited chatting if possible. At first, I was a bit taken back by not being encouraged to talk while we work. I then started to read the Kundalini writings.

Why do I need to talk? Is there a purpose to my words or am I enamoured with my own voice? Hmmm. The text talks about those that feel the need to fill the silence with chatter and equates the behaviour to being an infant or full of self importance.

Why Am I Talking? W.A.I.T for short. For many years I have got paid to talk it’s a hard habit to break. My daughter and I took a rode trip from Vancouver to Seattle and back one time. On the way back, she told me I talk too much. I love my daughters directness. We drove in silence for a while and then she couldn’t stand it and told me to start talking again.

I have been practicing speech awareness here and to reduce my need to contribute often to the conversation. Its a hard habit to break and yet it feels warranted. Do I really have something worth saying or do I feel the need for attention? Wow, taking a closer look at ones own ego trips is revealing. How many times have I felt the need to add in my own experiences instead of sharing in others with the gift of just listening? The more I make a conscious effort to restrain myself the more I am aware of my speech.

So where do I go from here? Just stop talking? No, I don’t think that is the point. Be comfortable in the offering of silence. Be generous with my ability to listen. Become more present and speech aware. Practice W.A.I.T. when opportunities are available.

W.A.I.T.

The Essence Of Salt

The ying and yang of salt

I have always struggled with my relationship with my dad. He was a character. Lived life on his terms no matter what or how it affected others. In some ways I envied him and his ability to put himself first. In some ways I pitied him because when you only put yourself first soon others stop including you in their lives at all. My dad wanted to be free. He married an unwed mother(my mom) in a time when I am sure everyone around him thought he was crazy to do so. They went on to have 6 more kids. With 9 people living in a small space, privacy and freedom was at a premium. He was resourceful so he found ways to access and enjoy both of these things. After 45 years of marriage, on my mothers birthday no less, he announced that he wanted a divorce. Loaded up his station wagon and drove away without looking back.

Ah, if only that was the end of the story.

Salt has interesting properties don’t you think? If you explore the makeup of anything on this planet it contains some degree of salt. We can’t exist without it. I have always been curious about Ying and Yang, opposites that attract, cravings for things that aren’t good for you. I often wonder if it’s because of my dad and me trying to come to terms with who he was and my relationship with him. He loved salt. He would add it to almost everything. In his later years, when he was stuck in the hospital with high blood pressure and heart problems he would holler loudly when they took it away from him. My sister and I would sneak in packets of it when no one was looking and he would store them in his table drawer by his bed. He was 89 years old and stuck in his ways, the doctors meant well but didn’t know this man and his love affair with salt.

Salt wasn’t good for him but he didn’t care nor did he want to live without it. He was discharged from his stay and went on to live for a few more months after that. He was a hard man to be around if you had history with him. Yet, he was a fascinating dinner partner or guest if you didn’t know him very well. He was well read and knew a lot of facts about many things to keep the conversation going. A simple operation would have fixed his heart problems if he so chose but he was terrified of going under the knife. His dad had died in an assisted living ward when he underwent a hip replacement surgery. He associated his death with being operated on which wasn’t true but there was no persuading him otherwise. His love affair with salt was the same. It didn’t hurt him he insisted. His heart trouble, blood pressure were all misdiagnosis. He only took the pills because everyone made him…lol. He ate the salt when you turned your back and continued to live as he wanted.

The night he died a few close family were in the room with him. He had mentally checked out earlier in the afternoon in the emergency room but in true dad fashion his heart refused to stop beating. It would choose when to go and prove that the doctors wrong. Salt had not killed his heart. His heart was strong and lasted well into the night.

We chose to have him cremated. Some of his ashes were buried with his brother, some scattered over the prairies where he worked as a lineman for an electric company, some I kept to take to his 3rd wife in California and more we still have awaiting a trip back East to bury with his mom and dad.

The trip to California was something unexpected. I met with his new family that had taken him in and genuining seemed to love him. He had spoke often of the ocean, the beach and the sun. We chose a pier that was close by where I could sprinkle a bit of his ashes to honor where he had been happy.

I was standing on the pier, close to a corner that faced the beach and that had some shelter under a structure. I was looking down into the waves crashing against the logs. The water was almost black in the shadows, swirling up the beach then out again into the ocean. I tipped the container slowly downward and watch the wind catch the contents in a white cloud as it descended. Time stopped just for a few seconds.. the dust drifted aiming for the surface of the waves. The alchemy of the salt water and the porous material was fascinating to watch as they mixed together. The remains landed as a membrane on the black water. Spreading out like a serpent that kept stretching out vertically at first then undulating further and further to form a channel of cloudy white. I watched as my dad seemed to sigh and soak up the salt as if he was regenerating. It might have been my imagination but I thought I saw bubbles popping like epsom salts in a tub. I looked around nervously in hopes no one else was watching my dad reclaim his fill of salt. A white milky image took shape about 6 foot 4 in the water just for seconds before a big wave came crashing down to claim the ghost in the undertow.

Good for you dad I chuckled. I was happy he had found a way to stay true to himself even then. To reclaim a part of himself that he couldn’t let go of no matter what others thought or did.

We are made from this substance, it keeps us alive but also it can kill us if we indulge too much.

Such is the true essence of salt.