The Abominable Snowmansion Hostel (A Staff View)

•November 29, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been back from New Mexico for a few months now and I figure its about time I get to writing a review of my experience at the Abominable Snowmansion a few miles north of Taos, New Mexico.

When I was looking at how to travel cheaply for the summer (’09) I joined the USA chapter of the World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) Organization. The Abominable Snowmansion was the only one of a few that I contacted which responded. We arranged a commitment for two weeks for myself and the possibility of longer.  So after my stay with a friend in Texas I hopped a bus to Taos and called from town.

I can’t recall who picked up, but the front desk of the hostel was under informed about the coming and going of ‘WWOOF’ers. The hostel and grounds are owned by the Brothers Subra and Amu; but the garden is the playground of their Mother, Mouna (Moon-ah is how I came to pronounce it).  I was told to show up during office hours (8am-12pm, 4pm-10pm) and we’d figure it out when I got there.

The Local bus does not actually go all the way to Arroyo Seco, Toas, NM (where the Mansion is; as opposed to Arroyo Seco, NM, many miles south west of Taos) but I didn’t walk more than 5 minutes from the northern most stop before someone pulled over and offered a riding. I was told hitchhiking was common in the area, and sometimes it is more time consuming but I got lucky.

There are a number of people who help with the garden but it appeared I was the first of those invited through WWOOF, and I think the front desk got more aware of it, but it would still depend who you catch when calling. Mouna is in favor of people relaxing their first day but it wasn’t uncommon for new people to learn that after jumping right in their first day.

Generally speaking even working in the garden people would spend a certain amount of time each week helping with some task for the Hostel; Be it working on a side project (building a fence, tiering a hill for growing herbs, ground keeping, building a green house are just a few of those I saw), taking a desk shift, or turning over rooms and cleaning common areas between guests. Its roughly 4-12 hours helping the hostel and as much time as you want on the garden each week depending where your staying. This leaves time to take paying work elsewhere and a number of workers staying longer do just that.

On the subject of the garden it really wasn’t my thing so I quickly shifted to a more hostel oriented work schedule. Serious WWOOFers may find the garden to be a rather chaotic assortment of farming tricks, techniques and fumbles. If you seeking new rigid farming philosophies your probably best looking for a more commercial farm; however if you you want to experiment with multiple styles at once you might find the opportunity here. Mouna is very open to trying new ideas and enjoys interweaving philosophy, spirituality and life into her personal learning of field tending. A question may result in many tangents and likewise you may need to hold the reigns to gain her concentration on a single subject; but one can only admire her nearly always mirthful eagerness for each day in her garden.

The main shifts in the hostel are pretty straightforward. Front desk will deal with checking people in and out; as well as doing laundry. The cleaning shift will take a person through any room that has been left that day as well as common areas, kitchens and bathrooms. Changing sheets, towels; Making sure they are supplied with soap and toilet paper; and disinfecting etc.

The duties of the garden and hostel are not all that happen. Mouna will also teach of herbs, medicine, body work, cooking and a number of other subjects. The Seco Pearl  and Arroyo Seco itself  occasionally host musicians and artistic events. During my stay there was also a weekly sweat lodge and dinner; Tuk has since left the area but I think Mary-ann and Pat were going to continue leading it (not sure if they’ll do it during winter months though).

Overall I found my time as staff to be very enjoyable. I met many wonderful people, both guests and staff. As employment Subra and Amu are pretty relaxed bosses and none of it is complicated to learn. Accommodations range from camping to small cabins (work load depends on where you stay) and all of them are plenty enough for the basic traveler. They prefer workers to stay at least two weeks and to be trained on desk tends to assume a few months stay. I’d highly recommend it for a short stay or as a multi-month stop. What was a two week commitment turned into almost 3 months in total.


Metamorphosis (Ayahuasca Documentary) Update

•May 29, 2009 • 2 Comments

Metamorphosis(Official Site) is a documentary that follows several westerners as they undergo five Ayahuasca ceremonies and experience the gamut of emotions — from utter fear to outright ecstasy. It also explores the shamans who work with the medicine as well as all the key elements of an Ayahuasca ceremony.

Breckenridge Film Festival (June 11th-14th) in Breckenridge, Colorado. – Won Best Cinematography

Upcoming Viewings:

Wild Project (June 20th 7:30pm) at 195 East 3rd Street, NYC, NY

5th International Amazonian Shamanism Conference (July 11th-18th) in Iquitos, Peru. I don’t know specifically what day, but I doubt anyone semi-curious is going to travel there specifically for the documentary when you could easily find a local group to experience Ayahuasca for yourself.

I’ll update as I learn about screenings at other conferences and festivals elsewhere.

Confronting Travel Anxiety

•May 9, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Ever since reading 7 habits of highly effective teens in high school the use of words like comfort zone and paradigm have been highlighted by my brain when listening to people speak. In the idea of a comfort zone is the ability to expand it by operating in the area where you are uncomfortable. It hasn’t even been a week so perhaps I’m expecting a bit much especially since the drive down was pretty tame as far as doing something out of the ordinary; but the anxiety attacks seem rather server so far.

I spent most of the night Sunday before leaving Rochester, flip flopping on whether to go through with it. I don’t know how long I writhed in my bed until I committed to the idea and was able to fall asleep.

Tired and feeling a bit ill I wrapped up a few things I had remaining and it passed when my stoic mask was put on to chat with my grandfather and a few friends before leaving. I was good till we hard the car nearly packed and I felt nervousness again growing. I grew comfortable on the drive down, dealing mostly with nauseousness from the length of the drive but realizing for the time most worries were out of my hands. However, having arrived in Texas its become time to figure out my next move.

Between overeating a bit and feeling stressed, soon as I had time to myself I was shaking, feeling nauseous and overwhelming myself with questions about the whole trip. Walking is an option but when you consider the math of it, it does seem a bit absurd. A full day of walking (20-24 miles) is like 30-40 minutes in a car.

The bus ticket is definitely cheaper than the cost of food while walking for a month between here and the first farm. Stands to reason that it would be true of any great distance making buses the way to prolong the length of the trip in addition to a greater variety of locations possible. My qualms with abandoning aspects of the original idea seem to grow fewer but I do wonder if in doing so I’m making my search to understand what I would enjoy doing harder.

I’m growing accustom to handling my friend’s 10 month old though and the trip down wasn’t anywhere near as bad as she thought it would be. Even if theres no sudden change I am learning to be in the moment and I’ve gotten more confident in dealing with a toddler. Still plenty to learn yet though.

Embracing Uncertainty

•April 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been a bit silent the last week or two and I’ve got a week left till I start driving down to texas with a friend. Taos, New Mexico is the only other waypoint I have at the moment but at the same time I’m not yet actively hunting my next stop after that. I feel like the art of living is somewhere in improvisation, a talent I don’t feel confident in suggesting I begin to possess. For all purposes though its probably just a result of my outlook that nothing is certain, if nothing is certain you need to be able to dodge, absorb or reflect anything dependent on a situation in order to act correctly or rightly. I suppose thats my definition of simplicity, to intuitively navigate in that way no matter the situation.

Synchronicity vs Coincidence was again on my mind, when someone commented on my most recent post about Aramu Muru’s Doorway. I’m was thinking to myself I’ll be one state away from Arizona, perhaps I ought to poke around personally. The article I saw suggested the “gate” had long since collapsed, but the commenter suggests there is a more ornate one in the same area. I’d have to hunt down more information on that if I actually plan to, but it lead me to search Ron Quinn again . Hoping for a bit of contact info; I found myself side tracked by a book he wrote, Little People, about some kind of foot tall human-looking multi-dimensional beings seen around the Catskills and Adirondacks. Hits home cause its a legend about someplace within the same state that I’ve spent my life.

He could just be a good storyteller but part of me wants to believe he’s actually had some of the strange experiences he claims. The question in my mind then becomes “Am I being guided to a truth by some greater force or do I just want to believe so badly in something extraordinary that I’m chasing any string I find?” The middle ground is that if I met him I may pick up some trick to storytelling or maybe he could give a few tips on discovering my own weird experiences, so either way it could prove fruitful. Its pretty easy to write off so many things that I’m not sure what I’d consider athenticly unexplainable, but I’d still like to encounter what I can.

Heaven on my mind.

•April 11, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Beg your pardon but this will probably be one of my more stream of consciousness type posts.

For whatever reason Youtube was suggesting videos of different Motivational Speakers for me to watch last week. I ended up picking one of Jim Rohn, who popularized the quote “Work harder on yourself, than you do on your job.” His speech resonated in my head with a larger conflict I contemplate.  He drilled on results as the thing that marks your progress and really the entire point of anything you do. I think the only argument I can take against it though is that he seemed concentrated on a market like definition of results. In anything its difficult to be indifferent to results, rather than determining value by monitary return spirituality asks you to develop as a person. My weakness is want of knowledge, to practice a discipline for a life time, I fear I’d be no closer to knowing anything more than I do now. I might very well be a more compassionate and capable person for the effort but it seems like it would become harder to maintain hope that I would understand something greater as time went on.

I suppose in a way its the ultimate fear of uncertainty, I don’t try the path because I’m not certain it will have answers. The irony is that every path has answers, all truths might be subjective, and yet I’m holding out for one eternal truth that might not exist and likely even if it did exist I would look at uncertain as any other choice. In this way the idea of indifference to results makes sense but its difficult to find the drive for things for their own sake. I’m having trouble collecting my thoughts of the past week or two, watched Jesus Christ Superstar yesterday and the perspective of Judas and Mary seemed to sum up the opposing sides.

In the beginning of the movie Judas represents a commitment to earthly troubles (Heaven on their minds) and Mary that mystical ideal that everything is auspicious (Everything’s alright). Its said that the realization of auspiciousness only works at a specific height of enlightenment, even a step away the idea can be misleading, appear delusional or unrecognizable. I suppose I have an assumption that to recognize all as auspicious is bliss and would be the only result I’d need, the importance of earthly troubles would fall away. Mentally though earthly troubles seem more applicable to the idea of having/needing results and progress. Compassion for others is a tie to the worldly troubles and seems like it would get in the way of bliss, but I ought to be indifferent to the results so bliss ought to be something I should be grateful to experience but ultimately indifferent about?

If there is no eternal truth, want of knowledge is want of belief, and thus I’m still as delusional as the rest but maybe it is as preferable to uncertainty as I’ve been lead to think. I don’t know, just don’t get me started on Determinism and Fatalism…

Pilgrimage: New Plan

•March 31, 2009 • 1 Comment

Unfortunately I’ve successfully reasoned myself away from my leap of faith. Pride has won over the idea of surviving primarily on the alms of others. Traveling without money has become working my way around however I may. I’m not yet a street performer so for the time being I imagine I’m looking at physical labor, any suggestions on short term work (of any variety, for food or money) for the transient population would be much appreciated.

The only idea I’ve got at the moment would be shifting from farm to farm within the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) which offers food and shelter in exchange for a number of hours of work. Obviously its very seasonal and I’d have to get invitations ahead of time to my next destination. The advantage is its one way to stretch the remnants of my bank account and should prove educational in a number of ways.

My bank account becomes the end of the road unless I find some possitive flow in the process but I suppose thats part of the trip. I will also be starting from Texas rather than my native Rochester, NY. I’ll be driving down with a friend and her daughter when they return home, unless plans change again. Which is possible and just part of the flow. I’m a little disappointed to so quickly throw those early limits to the wind before even starting but I’m telling myself the main thing is to go, rather than how its done. Whether that idiom is intuition or reasoned logic, damned if I know; but heres hoping I find out.

Consequences of Bad Posture

•March 23, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been a pretty sedentary creature for most of my life so its definitely gonna be a bit of work getting comfortable walking 20+ miles a day. I used to walk home from work which was roughly three miles and sometimes would notice a pain in my arms. I had assumed it was just from being tense trying to keep warm, but I walked for roughly an hour today and felt something similar. Looked it up and found it was related to a problem that came to my awareness in school for Massage Therapy.

One of the first things you get involved with is range of motion which my shoulders have trouble with to a startling degree for being 23. I was one of the younger people in the class and one of those in need of the most work to improve range of motion. In the end it comes down to my posture which I’ve been more attentive to in some respects since learning about my issue but really not gone to any effective length to remedy it. The body balances itself and I’m one of many that hold their head forward rather than keeping it in line with the central axis of the body. In doing this the stress of carrying it bounces from back to front and back repeatedly down the body. Some muscles chronically tighten others weaken over time in this state. This comes with the risk of pinching nerves as well as general inflexibility and limited range of motion.

In any event, looks as though stretching and taking a more active attentiveness to my posture is added to preperation for walking. This site has a good description of how to elavulate your own posture and what you can do to correct it if your in the same place as me about midway down the page. When I performed the test with my body against the wall my left hand and forarm started to tingle from the nerve being compressed. Makes it clear why the Buddha was all about posture and exercise in the daily routine.