Date: 28 June-5 July
Location: Denali National Park
I spent the last week in Denali National Park: a wonderful retreat of hiking, biking, chanting, studying, and getting to know the local ecosystems, my faith, and a friend a little more. I based at one of the lodges out in Kantishna, at the end of the bumpy, winding 92-mile dirt road through the Park, where my friend is a naturalist and guide. She’s a Vaisnava scholar, yoga teacher, and wonderful, compassionate, insightful, wise human being. She was working three out of five days I was at the lodge, so I had many hours on my own to explore the alpine ridges around the lodge and to sit curled up with BG As It Is and a cup of tea. I’ve never spent much time with this edition and found it very rewarding.
I’d been feeling very discouraged here in Talkeetna, without any association of devotees (or really anyone with any religious or philosophical interest at all, for that matter) and without the inspiration and accountability to keep me on track. The unregulated, materialistic, self-absorbed, laissez-faire bent of life here, driven by the nature of rural/small town life, by the homesteader nature of most people here, and by the effects of a summer of daylight and a winter of darkness, is not conducive to a sattvic lifestyle. I can hardly cloister myself for three months (that’s not beneficial either) and the more I make friends with locals and guides, the more I think I lose sight of what I ought to be doing. I’ve felt a very strong unbalancing effect, caught in the tendency to stay up late and sleep in; to work all day without any spiritual practice or consideration for personal growth; and to feel like nothing matters, like it’s okay to let the important things go for a little while. I’ve even felt my attitude change to quite less than sweet, compassionate, and considerate due to a lack of mindfulness and an almost-grudging attitude.
But after spending time with my friend in the Park, I feel very encouraged. Such a clear focus on devotional studies and on connection with the outdoors and doing work through that lens is exactly what I need, and this “retreat” has, I hope, jump-started a more solid practice and better awareness of how I can work and live in a balanced and Krishna-conscious way, engaging both with the world around me and with the real world inside.