“So how is it?”
I was on the phone with my mother, who was asking about my three-day weekend in Bishop, California, a destination requiring seven hours of driving from my home in Santa Cruz. The drive had proven highly emotional and breathtakingly beautiful.
As I went over the mountain pass it was like going through a passageway of my soul; when the mountains rose up and the valley swooped down before me, I erupted into tears.
How incredible. How vast. How beautiful.
Exhausting too, and questionable—I had only one full day to spend in this remote high desert mountain town in the Eastern Sierra.
I was standing in my friend’s backyard, complete with homemade climbing wall, sauna, and duck pond, when my mother asked me this fateful question.
“It’s great. It’s a really cool place. But I feel like it hasn’t given me the breakthrough I was hoping for.”
I’d been feeling conflicted and stuck in my life, but didn’t have the courage to change anything. I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath long enough to figure out what was going on inside me. But beyond that, I dreaded confronting my interior. I knew there was plenty in there I didn’t want to deal with.
A few weeks later, I received my first clue that something was taking place within me. I was in a yoga nidra class (yoga for deep relaxation and sleep), and the teacher was naming beautiful scenes in a guided meditation. When she said “snow-capped mountains,” the image of the Sierras visible from Bishop appeared in my mind and tears began to flow from my eyes. I felt a great emotional energy rising within me, but I subdued it lest I make a scene.
Over the next several months, I visited the Eastern Sierra two more times, taking every three-day weekend I could to come back to this place that kept calling to me. I walked through Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, slept alone in my car on a dirt road hilltop in the Inyo National Forest where I discovered the “great quiet” of the region, and swam in warm artesian wells.
There was something about this place.
During this time, I also resumed journaling, which I’d neglected for years, ended an unhealthy three-year relationship, fell in love, took a spontaneous trip to see the total solar eclipse from a mountaintop in central Oregon, took a philosophy class that helped me reframe my life, had my heart broken for the best, came into contact with my higher self, wrote poetry for the first time in 10 years, launched a business, relinquished half of my hours at my full-time job, discovered the bliss of dance, and finally, I moved to Bishop.
I transitioned from a state of physical and mental lethargy into a state of wakefulness.
Unexpectedly, I now live in the very place where I uttered those words: “I feel like it hasn’t given me the breakthrough I was hoping for.”
In contrast to how I was before that first visit to Bishop, I’m now engaged with my life, filled with a sense of purpose, liberated from destructive patterns, inspired, attuned to my narrative, and most importantly, grateful. Despite the dry desert air, I can breathe more easily.
It was not straightforward or effortless. I had to be honest with myself to get here. I had to face the exact parts of myself I didn’t want to face, explicitly admitting to myself the thoughts I’d been trying to ignore.
The trip alone could not have provided me with these breakthroughs. It was only when I reached within myself that the contents of my soul could begin to reassemble. I needed Bishop to break me out of my usual routine. I needed to watch my repressed emotions be freed over seven hours of driving to the mountains and back to the coast to know anything was going on in my heart.
I needed the practices of yoga, meditation, and writing to help me find the courage to be honest with myself and make sense of my life. I needed hikes by myself to clear my mind, release my attachments, and remember my strength. And I needed my friends to help me through the hardest parts, to help me face the hostile terrain that terrified me, so that I could discover that once I crossed it, I would arrive in a splendorous place where I could thrive.
Through all this, the underlying lesson has been: wait. Important changes do not take effect immediately. Just because it feels like nothing is happening, doesn’t mean that something isn’t happening.
This is particularly true when we take up new practices, such as meditation. It can take some time before we realize that even the nothing-seems-to-be-happening experience can be part of something much bigger. Opening to a larger context and practicing patience helps us recognize hidden connections between the experiences of our lives. Honestly inquiring into what’s unfolding in our heart and mind allows us to more clearly see the phases of inner pattern shifts, an awareness that supports us in taking action in our lives.
I’ve been asked countless times: “Why Bishop?”
Every time, I have to pause. It’s impossible to succinctly and fully capture or express the emotions, synchronicities, and stories underlying this question.
“For the breathing room,” I say, and smile, knowing that of course, there’s so much more to that question and so much more yet to come.
When we open to the truths within ourselves, we are bound to encounter features of our hearts, bodies, and minds that we wish were different. But it’s not until we confront ourselves exactly as we are that any meaningful change or understanding can take place.
If we can have hope that coming to terms with the difficulties of our lives can give rise to insight, beauty, and wondrous possibilities, we’ll have the courage to look within—we’ll be willing to take ourselves as we are. We will rouse from a slumberous, passive life, ready to shift into wakefulness.
Author: Sara Kaiser
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Travis May