Day Four of Play Ashram: A Popup Village in the Red River Gorge

Day Four of Play Ashram: A Popup Village in the Red River Gorge

May 4 2018

The latest installment on my life as a big experiment, and this ashram lifestyle endeavor is one of the biggest ones I’ve encountered.

On day two, Christopher texted me and asked “How’s day 2?! How’s it going?” I responded by saying “Like I am wearing my heart on my sleeve 24/7”

Today I have a more precise and thorough explanation.

When you transplant a plant, especially one that has been growing outside, you disturb her root system while putting her in new, hopefully fertile soil, watering her, putting her in a place with gentle sunlight, not scorching sun. If you are transplanting outside, don’t this in the middle of the day because too much sun too fast can make it too hard for the plant to build up the necessary turgor pressure in her cells to look lush, full and healthy. There is this moment, after the plant has been settled in her new soil, when her leaves may still look wilty and flaccid. However, if you have transplanted before, you know that if you have listened to the rules and principles of plant life, all that is necessary is time, and soon she will look happy and healthy. In the magic of sufficient stillness, the tiny connections between the soil and the cells of her root hairs will re-form. When everything stops moving, the tiniest invisible movements happen, through the grace of the laws of chemistry and physics, and the water will again begin to flow up her stem. So you pat the soil around the base of the stem, and turn your attention to other things, waiting for that moment when you can look back at her, in an hour, a day, or maybe even several days, depending on the species, and she will reward you with the equivalent of a plant smile. You can tell by the way she holds herself that she’s getting enough water and nutrients, she’s happy in her new home. Her leaves will be horizontal to the ground. They will have assumed their full shape, without folds or floppy edges.

That moment when you walk away from the temporarily sad plant, that’s what these first few weeks in the Gorge have felt like for me. So much uncertainty, about the campground situation, the exact location for the ashram, and then a trip back through Cleveland and New York, so much driving and moving. Teaching my first class at this new yoga studio, re-establishing connections with friends, having a day when I wanted to climb but couldn’t find a climbing partner, feeling out of climbing shape and missing that sense of confidence on the rock, having someone tell me that “other people think what I am doing is weird” (as if anyone EVER needs to hear that!?). All of these are tiny things, and I kept noticing anxiety running in the background of my being, a constant energy drain. I was feeling quietly vulnerable and exposed; I have really put myself out here with this project, socially, spiritually and physically, camped at my presently solo spot here at the campground.

I did not realize until yesterday that I was like the plant and the transplanter of the plant, both waiting for the roots to start flowing. Yesterday morning, I woke up with this warm glow of well-being, and the feeling continues today, it’s radiating from every pore. This elusive feeling that I have experienced so many times here in the Gorge, and it has moved me to tears of joy before. Vicky (a romantic friend who lives in India) and I had connected in a new way on the phone the night before, I had slept well, I had solid plans to climb with Luca, a person I love and who doesn’t flake out. This warmth in my being, this trust that all is OK with the world, trust that I am making choices that are ultimately bringing me closer to ultimate joy, this is the power that enables me to really climb my heart out on a given day. It is a background sense of contentment, of routine, of settled wholesomeness, of health and nestling in close to the earth. All day yesterday, this feeling was my companion, as I climbed pitch after pitch, and felt the joy of my muscles getting worked and tired. Today I woke up barely able to make a fist, my forearms are so spent.

An important epiphany that has contributed to this sense of well-being is that I have gotten crystal clear about what invitation I am making. For the next three months (May 1 - July 31) I am inviting friends, those who are already close to me, and those I maybe have yet to meet, to come live this ashram lifestyle with me, with the intention of learning, playing, and growing spiritually, in a way that feels good for all of us. The foundation agreements that are in place are: living in tents in the woods, getting up early to meditate and practice yoga, preparing vegan meals together, closing the day with a fire ceremony, restricted (preferably no) use of alchohol, tobacco or other drugs, a willingness to participate and help host growth and play oriented events to serve the community and a willingness to revisit and revise these agreements on an ongoing basis.

I am overjoyed about the friends who have already said they are coming. Cecilia, like an angel from heaven, will be joining me starting tomorrow and staying through July. Emilie, Jenn, Yogi Amitram and Andrew are all coming for stays of several days or weeks. Steven and Jeremy have popped in and participated by meditating, practicing, eating and/or doing fire ceremonies with me. Nicole, Matt, Daniel and Steven joined me for our first discussion about the “spirituality of climbing”. Monica, Halle, Alecia, Mallory, Dawn, John and Colleen are all considering if a visit to the ashram is on their path within the next three months.

I am resting in this “home frequency” (as Elena Brower would call it) of wholeness, quiet joy and gratitude today, and eager to share this feeling with you. Let’s commit to creating the world that we want to live in, starting right in this moment, in our own hearts and minds.