Ottawa Lake in November

This past weekend I finally got out to Ottawa Lake campground for an overnight camping adventure. I’ve unsuccessfully attempted to camp out there 3 times in 2019. Twice I was rained out and snowed out the other.

I arrived at the campground on Saturday at 2:30 pm, set up camp and walked around the campground. Ottawa Lake Campground is a large facility with a beach and day area, as well as numerous campsites for tents and RV’s. Beautiful area to camp.

My campsite was in a valley of sorts but had a distant view of Ottawa Lake. After a long and nice walk, I cooked up some supper (Red Beans and Rice with Andouille Sausage) and made coffee. LEARNING EXPERIENCE: my Coleman 1-Burner Table Top Butane Stove does not work well in temps around the mid-30’s. Luckily my Coleman Peak 1 worked or I would have been eating a lot of granola over the next 24 hours.

I finished cooking my dinner and sipped my coffee while watching the night approach. At about 8 pm, the temperature was 36 degrees Fahrenheit. Weather.com promised a low temperature of 24 degrees so this would definitely be the coldest camping I’ve done thus far. So what was my sleeping kit for the evening? See below:

-Sleeping cot about 30″ off the ground
-2″ air mattress
-Coleman 40 degree sleeping bag
-Acrylic blanket
-Wool blanket

I normally go to bed once my fire goes out so I ended up calling it a night around 10 pm. After using the facilities (a tree) one last time, I climbed into bed with my temperature gauge reading 34 degrees. I watched a Thich Nhat Hanh documentary for a bit (Thanks Netflix downloads) and fell asleep.

I woked up twice during the night. The first time was a bathroom call. I’ve read where you shouldn’t “hold it” during the night when winter camping because your body uses a lot of energy keeping itself warm. After using the facilities again, I got back into the tent at around midnight and it was pretty cold. My second awakening was due to an animal walking by my tent. I say they walked by my tent because the noise it was making (click HERE) started rather faint then increased and receeded again. It was definitely a raccoon coming to my camp to clean up any trash or food left out (sorry, buddy). Checking my watch and temperature gauge, it was 2 am and 26 degrees. I stayed warm the whole night. I didn’t wake up with my teeth chattering or body shaking. LEARNING EXPERIENCE: I think I need to purchase an air matress as I’m a side sleeper and toss and turn alot. The cot is nice but doesn’t work well with my turning all the time. The other thing is that a sleeping bag doesn’t work that well for turning. May look into a synthetic down quilt.

Got up early Sunday morning. I ate some breakfast (yogurt and granola) and hiked the Scuppernong Orange Loop, which was really nice. I returned to my campsite, packed up and headed home around 1:30 pm. All in all, it was a great time.

5 Essentials of Meditation-Let go of Expectations

This is the third installment of the five essentials to beginning a successful meditation practice. To me, this is the most important:

Let go of expectations.

I speak with people when they start meditating and hear things like “I don’t think I’m doing it right” or “I wasn’t able to meditate like others.” Each person’s practice is exactly that: personal to him or her. Yes, there are some commonalities or things that every person should be doing during their practice, but a good part of it is unique.

When asked by others “How will I know if I’m meditating correctly,” Sarah McLean says “When you approach meditation without expectations, without trying “too hard” or attempting to control your experience, and with a sense of ease and welcome for whatever experiences arise, then you are doing it right.”

I like when McLean talks about approaching one’s meditation practice with a “sense of ease and welcome for whatever experiences arise…” This is key. Remember that the main ingredient in cultivating one’s practice is to simply create and set aside a time and place to sit. EVERYTHING else should be approached with a sense of ease and welcome for whatever emerges. Maybe this morning your 5 minutes was filled with constant thoughts. That’s ok. And maybe Tuesday morning was similar and that’s also okay. Our lives aren’t static so why should we believe that our experiences during meditation will be identical each day. The important thing is that we create and maintain the 5 minutes each day. Approach everything else with gentleness, curiosity, and acceptance to whatever arises.

I know this is difficult. We have been socialized to expect results. We spend a couple of days sitting for five minutes and become frustrated when we aren’t floating on air. Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. Take your seat each day with curiosity, gentleness, and acceptance and see what happens.

And as always, come sit and meditate with me on Monday and Friday at Yoga Hohm.

5 Essentials of Meditation-Don’t Try Too Hard

This is my third installment of McLean’s 5 essentials for successful meditation:

Don’t try too hard.

Forcing one’s self to have a certain experience (“I’m gonna sit here until I don’t have any thoughts”) when meditating is only going to create more thoughts. I love McLean’s example of trying to force oneself to go to sleep. The more we try to go to sleep, the more we tend to think about the fact that we are not asleep. McLeans says “The only effort you put in is the effort to set aside the time and space for your regular practice.” This is really important. Schedule a time, create a quiet, and sit. That’s it. Period. Anything more and you’re going to find yourself becoming frustrated.

Remember, meditation, like every other thing we get do, requires practice. The idea of meditation is simple, isn’t it? Come and sit and quiet yourself. In reality, this is not so simple and requires repetition. So schedule that 5 minutes per day, go find a quiet corner in your home, and sit.

As always, come and sit with me at Yoga Hohm

Meditation – Thoughts are ok

This summer I struck up a conversation with a friend about meditation. She was interested in meditating, confessing that she sorely needed to bring some calmness her chaotic life.” When I asked how meditation was going she said, “I tried it for a couple of days, but couldn’t keep it going.” I asked what kept her from continuing and she said “Well, I couldn’t stop thinking while I was supposed to be meditating. I just figured it wasn’t for me.”

I can’t tell you how many times I hear some similar regarding meditation.

Sarah McLean’s first essential in developing a meditation practice is “It’s okay to have thoughts.” Let’s get one thing straight: the brain is meant to think and practically no one is going to be successful in stopping that process. Thankfully meditation isn’t about stopping or cutting off one’s thinking processes. It’s about learning to control the amount and flow of those thoughts while you’re meditating. Le’t quickly unpack that.

First, a consistent meditation practice (5-10 minutes per day) can help you limit the number of thoughts popping into your head. Remember, every time we notice that we’ve lost our focus (we start thinking about what’s for dinner, something at work, etc.) AND RETURN to our practice (focusing on our breathing), we are strengthing our meditation practice. Maybe we do this 100 times during our 5-minute meditation. That’s okay. That’s how we strengthen our practice!

Second, consistent meditation practice helps prevent us from becoming hooked by the thoughts, which interrupt the flow of our meditation. Let me explain. So you’re in the middle of your daily 5-minute meditation when the following thought “pops into your head:”

I forgot to buy eggs last night at the store. S&*t. Now what am I going to have for breakfast?

YOUR HOOKED. Now your brain begins doing an inventory of possible breakfast options (oatmeal, granola, yogurt, etc.) in your pantry.

Before you know it, the flow of your meditation has been interrupted and you are thinking:

Yum, yogurt that sounds really good. Maybe with some granola mixed in there. I hope I have some of the Kashi granola left. I’m really not a fan of the other brand I bought last night at the grocery store…

As I stated earlier, we can’t stop that original thought from entering our minds. But with practice, we can train our mind to not become hooked, which always interrupts the flow of our meditation practice. With consistent practice, maybe next time, the scenario goes like this:

I forgot to buy eggs last night at the store. S&*t. Ok, well, I’m not gonna have eggs this morning and that’s okay. Let’s finish my 5-minute meditation and then I’ll find something for breakfast.

Hungry? Me too:)

Be sure to look for my third installment. And as always, come and meditate with me at Yoga Hohm on Tuesdays (6 pm)

Oak Savannah Fields

So I went camping this past Labor Day weekend at Oak Savannah Fields in Easty Troy. I found their campsite on the website www.hipcamp.com. You should check it out.

Oak Savannah Fields is a part of Grassway Organics., which is an organic farm on about 400 acres and is beautiful. They have free-range chickens, cows, and other animals hanging around the farm. The weekend was nice. I tried out my new Coleman Sundome 6 and love it (it rained overnight and I didn’t get a drop of rain). Cooked some pretty good food, including steak and garlic mashed potatoes. Also did some hiking around the farm to walk off all those carbs! Check out my pics below!

Great place!

Mindful Adventures

Meditation is often understood as something done only on a mat or in a chair. And that is a big part of it, but I wanted to remind readers that many of my meditations over the past several months have come in the form of mindful adventures.

Beginning this past spring, I began trying to get back into the wilderness (hiking or sometimes just walking in woods, camping, etc.), This began as a response to Scott Stillman’s book Wilderness. which asks the reader to rekindle their relationship back to the natural world (getting away from the noisy and often chaotic world in which many of us live).

Now I’m not proposing that one run out to REI and drop $1000 on camping equipment. Nor am I trying to persuade you to sign up for the next 7-day canoeing trip at the Boundary Waters. You don’t have to have an extra grand or spend 7 nights on a cot to have a mindful adventure.

For me, getting outside and away from all the noise (traffic, cityscapes, etc.) is my idea of a mindful adventure. Just taking a walk on a short trail in your town qualifies in my book. Want to “up the ante?” Buy a state park permit ($25 in WI) that allows you to park at and hike all state trails. It’s amazing what solitude you can find by simply walking out on a trail for one mile. Importantly, walk the trails with the mind of a child. Enjoy and bring curiosity to all you see out on the trail (as if seeing them for the first time ever). And don’t worry about your pace (unless bad weather or darkness is approaching).

Camping has also brought me the solitude I seek in my mindful adventures. I love sitting outside by a fire in the wilderness. Again, you don’t have to travel 1200 miles to the Rocky Mountains to enjoy a campfire, wilderness or solitude. Some of the pictures above were taken from a campsite in East Troy, WI, which is 15 miles from my home in southern WI. And let’s face it, I’m no young buck anymore. When I use the word “camping,” I mean spending the night in a really big tent that affords me a lot of extra space (I can stand up in my tent) and I sleep on a cot with a thick sleeping pad that basically functions as a mattress. I definitely wouldn’t say I’m “roughing it.” And as far as campfires, you don’t have to be in the wilderness. Create a space in your backyard or porch (safety first!) and spend some time gazing into the flames (NOT your cellphone). Again, the point is to purposefully insert me into a level of solitude and out of my normal busy, everyday life.

Roaring Fork

Last week was my last time to campout this summer in CO. I decided to go back to Arapaho Bay’s Roaring Fork Campground, as it was so nice my first trip. Also, I didn’t hike 9+ miles the day I set up camp so I figured I’d enjoy it more:)

The pictures above show off my beautiful campsite facing the west, which provided me with spectacular views of the sunset (it did not disappoint).

Below are pictures of Monarch Lake, which was a 2 or so mile hike away from the campground. Altogether, it was another lovely overnight trip.

Big Meadows

Last week I finally made it out to Big Meadows. Starting from the Visitor’s Center, I hiked about 8.5 miles (round trip) with an elevation gain of 736 feet. I previously hiked parts of this trail, but hadn’t made it up to the meadows. Which was beautiful!

The weather was lovely and there was a nice breeze. The trip up to the meadows was quiet, while the return was pretty packed with people (gotta get out early if you want a little solitude).

Like its name implies, the meadow was expansive. No idea how large the actual meadow is, but the park lists a north and south meadow (I didn’t hike to the south meadow, which was another .5 miles). I stopped for a quick lunch and enjoyed the beautiful grasses, flowers, butterflies, trees, and stream. Really was nice! I also saw several moose, a marmot and some chipmunks. Altogether it was definitely worth the wait.

Cascade Falls

This past Tuesday I hiked to Cascade Falls. A 7.14 mile hike with a 672 mile elevation gain, this trail provided me a nice workout.

My trek began with a nice view of a good-sized moose. Her smaller partner was hiding behind some willows so I couldn’t catch any pics of them.

The trail was a mix of meadows and forest with lots of birds, squirrels, and an occasional marmot. It was particularly rocky in spots, which I don’t particularly enjoy, but the falls were really nice. I’m always surprised at the level of sound a water fall generates. I was sitting about 10 yards from two other hikers who were holding a conversation, but I could only see there mouths move, as the sound of the waterfall dominated all other sounds. I love the unique solitude created by waterfalls.

Cascade Falls is a nice hike for any person (if I can do it, anyone can). It is a heavily-used trail so this isn’t the one for you if you want some quiet. All in all, it was a great morning. Below are the pics from the hike.

Hike and Overnight Camp

Tuesday I went for a 9.6-mile hike and camped overnight. I started out at the Shadow Mountain Dam and followed the Continental Divide Trail to the Arapaho Bay Roaring Fork Campground. Lots of pretty flowers and the views were amazing, especially when I reached Knight Ridge. Pretty exhausted once I arrived at the campground.

Set up my tent, had some food, started a fire and read a couple of chapters from Peter Heller’s Celine. Stayed up till around 11 pm so I could check out the beautiful sky with all the stars above. Truly amazing night.