Tales of the Tao Traveler


Hello there! Some may not be aware of what the Tao is, but like Ashton Shepard says ‘Look it up.’ As a few of you may know I just returned from a four-day trip to California and Yosemite National Park. In this post I hope to not only relay my experience to you, but delve into my personal thoughts on the on-goings and life in general (hence the Tao). Just to lay out now: previously some may perceive me to be ‘shy’ and I would struggle to just ask someone for a refill, so this is a trip of many firsts where I have to take my own initiative (needless to say I tore down all kinds of walls). Saturday morning I waved good-bye to mom at 5 am to depart on my first solo flight (layover and all); finally reaching my destination of San Francisco, California at around 10. I caught my own taxi (another first) to take me to the Ferry Building to purchase bus and train tickets to the park. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, there was minimal wind, the sun was shining, and the temperature was just perfect. Once I arrived at my destination I was a little taken aback to see this huge market sprawling in front of me. Eventually though I find the station to get my tickets, to discover that I have two hours to meander around the city. I explore the market, taking in all its wonders: extra-virgin olive oil, organic fruits and vegetables in abundance, smoked salmon, organic herbs and seasonings, everything. Needless to say I was not only in awe, but in love (why do I not have this in Terre Haute! I was a little envious of the city at that point). For the two hours I wander aimlessly around the city trying not to have an agenda, rather just absorbing the city and all that it beheld. I stopped by a man’s station, where he played his makeshift drumset of trash cans and coffee cans. Upon reading I learn that his car had been broken into and his original set stolen, yet his sign said ‘Life is Good’. What a beautiful notion that this man can have everything taken from him and still have such a positive outlook on life. I place money in his tin and he gives me the most joyful smile (which I try my best to replicate) and move on to wonder down the streets. On returning to the market a young man (barefooted and dreaded hair), who approaches me acquiring about my visit and pack. ‘Well welcome to California. Do you want to smoke weed.’ Well I am a little taken aback, but manage to somehow politely deny him and tell him that I haven’t done that and that I don’t see a need to. Well he was baffled because he’d never met anyone that hadn’t smoked pot. This kind of set the tempo from where the day went from here. I boarded a bus to Emeryville, where I connected for a two hour train ride to Merced. Here is where the trouble begins. I find that the YARTS (the buses that transport you to the park) only goes to some hostel 25 miles from the park. Well there charts looked like they had buses going to the park and there was supposed to be another bus going from the hostel to the park. Well

El Portal where I picked up my second ride

when we reach our arrival I ask the driver if there is another bus coming. No. No! How am I supposed to get there, ‘I guess you’ll just have to get a ride’. So I take off with a stuffed backpack (may I add it’s also drizzling at this time) down the road determined that I will walk the whole way there (although praying someone with a kind heart would stop); I was going to make it to that park! I walk for a while, noticing that most of the cars are leaving the park and that the cars heading my direction were flying bye and couldn’t see my puppy dog face that I was making at them. Finally I bring up the nerve to stick my thumb up (‘I can’t believe I’m doing this, I would never do this, what is going on! are just some of the ramblings going on in my head). To my amazement the first car, stops yards in front of me and these two girls get out and start arranging the seat ‘we’re going to try’. Oh what wonderful girls! I rush up ranting incessant thank-you’s and climb in the back seat with all the Trader Joe treasures. I find out their names are Sara and Andrea. ‘Mind if I smoke my tobacco out of my pipe,’ Sara asks. Hell no, do whatever you’re doing me the biggest service. She drove her foot through the floorboard (or at least it felt like we were going that fast) and we flew around twisty mountainside (I do have to admit that I chose one of the prettiest areas in the US to hitchhike), after twisty mountainside. We chatted about fishing and hiking (Andrea had done the PCT the year before-that’s a trail from Mexico to the Canadian border), and I learn that they work at the park, so it turns into a mini tour. They told me about the surrounding area and gave suggestions on where to go in the park. Sara eased my minds on bears, because that was one of the things that she dealt with at the park (its amazing her just referring to them as friendly pushed out the thoughts of bear attacks). The fun couldn’t last though because they were driving home, not to the park, but they were confident that I would find another ride. So I get outside of a single pump gas station in El Portal shocked and amazed at what just happened; but still having a while to go so I take off down the road. Now it’s getting dark and the number of cars going to the park is going at a snail’s pace. The first five cars fly by me, but finally a car that sped past me stops ahead and reverts back. Overjoyed I jump to the door with a flowing rant of thank-you’s and wonder why she doesn’t respond. She’s deaf! We both try hard to understand one another, but finally resort to writing on note and she tells me that she’ll take me. So we take off and I feel the incessant need to thank her even though she can’t hear me (she sneezes and I say bless you before I realize she won’t get my seemingly courteous behavior). It was odd because I went from 2 chatty girls, who I felt like I needed to talk, to silence. All I can think is that this lady is an angel. This women took me all the way to my campsite! It just shows- these women saw someone in need and they opened their doors to me willingly. Before the Tao I would have judged people like me and

My campsite in the Upper Pines, complete with bear food storage units

kept driving. Everyone has a story, so open your heart to all and see yourself in them. I somehow manage to sleep after the exciting, yet long day (I was in shock for a while afterward). I woke up frozen the next day, it had snowed on Friday and I was completely numbed in the morning, only able to feel my fingers after a hot tea at the Curry Village. Around 8 I eagerly set off with no guides or plan of were to go, only to try and hike all day. Strolling around, staring in utter amazement at the towering limestone monoliths and rushing waterfalls. I push myself, hiking to see El Capitan (the limestone giant famous for crazy ass rock climbers, who look at the straight up vertical, with seemingly no handholds and say ‘I’m going to

The seemingly insurmountable El Capitan

climb that’). By the end of the day, I had hiked over ten miles. I have to take to admit now, that I did struggle, especially at night. At 5 I just seemed to hit a wall (the night and cold were coming, there were less people and feelings of loneliness would creep up), but I would calm myself with assurances that I said that I was going to do, using the Tao (telling myself that the cold and aching in my legs were not real, as I am not my body, that it is merely a vessel and there is no pain, only what I create in my head). I make it through the night though, each successive night getting better (I sleep better, am less cold). Even though the night was definitely more of a struggle I would wake bright and upbeat in the morning, ready for whatever it held. After a tea each morning (plus my hard-boiled eggs), I would set out for the trails. I met some interesting people along the way. On the shuttle I met an Indian man,who was initially interested in my barefoot shoes (as most people were, I got so many comments on them, and people talking about them, even in other languages, they were a fascination to all), but soon he was questioning everything and he was reminiscent of my friend Tab with his concerns for my safety. Not wanting to ‘scare’ me, he felt the need to tell me about kidnappings in the park a few years back, and when I ran into him the next morning he warned me on getting sick sleeping out in the cold. Well, this brought about reflections on this world of what-if’s. Thinking about what could happen/go wrong: bears, murderers/kidnappers, plane crashes, ailments, etc. Living in this world you don’t see all of the fortune in front of you because you’re so focused on omens or potentially bad happenings. That first day I could have looked at the day as a huge misfortune, that hitchhiking was a terrible thing. Rather I looked at it as a great opportunity. I completely stepped out of my comfort zone and did something new that I would have never imagined doing. Not to mention I got to meet some awesome people, who are a true testament to human nature. Experiences are what you make them. I did like the man, he was just looking out! Another shuttle ride, I meet this petite gay boy, who I’ll give you a brief description of: bleached blonde hair, hat, cream shirt with black polka dots and costumesque puffed sleeves, a black vest that came down long in the back like a cape, purple skinny jeans, and high heel clogs. This is a true test to my Tao skills, because not judging is one of the principles. My first thought was actually that those shoes weren’t every practical to get around the park. When he got off though the kids beside me were laughing at him. I actually thought he was wonderful, he didn’t give any thought to what people thought or said about him; he said, dressed, and did what he wanted. On my hike up to the Yosemite Falls I met an array of people. In the

Upper Yosemite Falls

brightest of moods, ready to take on the 3.5 mile vertical climb to the top, I set out making sure to say hello to each person. On the way down giving words of encouragement that they were nearly there and that it was truly beautiful (which it was, anyone can see the lower falls, but climbing to see the upper falls just added to their majesty and awe of its raw power). Just a note of observation as I am in the health arena: most of the people I met on this trail were foreigners, there were no well-fed Americans here like there were littering the easily accessible lower falls. I saw many start the trail but saw few of them finish. After another meal check and recentering, I prepare

The beautiful Mirror Lake

myself to hike to mirror lake. My favorite part actually wasn’t even the lake (which was pretty and is actually one of my favorite pictures), but was the older couple that I met on the way. They were so cute, each holding their own high-tech camera, snapping pictures of not only the scenery, but each other. I can’t help but listen to them, and at one point intercede with my own comment. We stroll along the path exchanging back-grounds, talking travel and such. They were absolutely lovely! Another terrific day with miles of hiking (which my calves are actively expressing the barefoot hikings repercussions, but I just put aside their nagging because a little discomfort would not interrupt my experience). The last morning I again return to my favorite overstuffed chair to sip my tea and reflect back on my journey. Of course there would be the questions of why? Why take the trip, what were you wanting? I don’t have a definitive answer for any of these. For a challenge to be in nature, to recenter may seem like reasonable answers. But honestly I just felt like it was something I needed to do. Same with the ‘cabin’, the idea came to me while reading the Tao and I didn’t question it or think of how it couldn’t happen, nothing is impossible. I no longer ask or question I just do. Dad said he’d have told everyone because when he wants something he’ll let everyone know. That’s fine  for him but I didn’t know what I wanted, I was trying not to go in with expectations or with an itinerary. I wanted to go in somewhat blind and just let things unfold as they may. Often on vacations you have a strict plan in mind- alright we have to see this and go there. Ushering and rushing our kids around from point a to point b. How easy it would be to have a car and just drive from landmark, snapping pictures and moving on to the next site. What do you or your kids get from this? For one there’s a lack of exercise here. But you’re not able to absorb. Where’s the challenge and experience gained from accomplishing something together. If you’re at the park just flying through you don’t see the awe of what nature has created- the towering limestone or power of a waterfall, by driving you miss

Trail up to Yosemite Falls that seems to fall off the mountainside

that deer on the trail only a few feet away that you could reach out and touch. At a museum you flit from picture to picture not letting the art evoke an emotion or see the thought and work of each brush stroke that went into creating each masterpiece. I was able to go at my own pace, with no specific place to be I was content, greeting everyone and in engaging with strangers. I didn’t come here looking for anything but I discovered a lot. The biggest being restriction and misfortune. I destroyed walls and had a lot of first living outside of my self-imposed restrictions, trying to follow along with what society deems acceptable behaviors and what is intended in life (work, marry, kids, etc). It’s all about attitude. I was uplifted and nothing was going to rain on my parade, so everywhere I went I saw not only beauty in nature, but beautiful people. Was I sad to return to Terre Haute? No, there is much beauty to be had there as well. Plus my family and job are here. I love it here at Body Change, where I get to meet all kinds of wonderful people. I admit that I lose Tao mode sometimes because clients will just focus on losing weight and being thin, rather than embracing a lifestyle that’s going to enhance the quality and quantity of life. In order to

North and Half Domes

change your body, you must change your thoughts. It’s like my dad says, most are mental masturbators. Because it you want something, you get it and like the Tao says, ‘a tower nine stories high starts with one brick. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. So weight starts with one pound (yes 1, so often people get on the scale and are disappointed with one instead of embracing the journey) until you get to that healthy body fat. The focus should not be the weight. Rather each day (each meal) to be as good as you can and give 100%, same with all things in life. If you falter, so what, it’s over and you can’t change it so there’s no use being upset, just get back on track. Am I good at this? Not all the time, but all things in life it is a skill and skills you have to practice in order to get better. This trip was a great time though from proposals to get high to hitchhiking to waterfalls and hiking 30 minutes and meeting an array of people. Don’t talk about living, BE about living!

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