This past weekend was one of the highlights of my life. Since the beginning of January, I’ve been doing some pretty intense and deep work within my soul and self. I’m removing barriers that are blocking me from shining the brightest that I can and living the life that I want to live. Most of this work involves stepping outside of my comfort zone, doing things that scare me and facing my fears.
Last year I took an Outdoor “Survival School” course that lasted one full year. It was an amazing gift. Not only had I learned essential survival skills in nature, I tested my own limitations as far as being outdoors in all-weather and began to learn about the raw power of nature. I made new friends whom I am connected to on a deep level and have shared mind-blowing experiences with. I also witnessed how healing nature is and how much we have to learn from her.
Since I had such an incredible experience last year, I signed up for a second year. This year takes us even deeper into survival skills and our selves and pushes our comfort zones more than the previous year. We are learning about the connection between native tribes around the globe and nature, how to listen to ourselves and our instincts and to follow them.
This past weekend our class was about Winter and Dreams. Our project was to build an igloo/snow cave and sleep in it as well as being conscious of our dreams while in the cave. Growing up in Texas, I had little experience with snow. Having lived in Germany for the past six years, I have much more, but I have not camped in the winter as had most people in the group. So this was far beyond my comfort zone. I like the sunshine and being barefoot. However, I made friends with winter for the first time last year. Once I surrendered and accepted that winter was long and cold, I was able to see the beauty in it, especially in the mountains with a lot of snow.
We were to partner up and build the cave together, a process which took one full afternoon and morning. My partner was a super sweet and fun German boy called Martin. Martin has a way about him in nature that I really admire; he is aware, skillful, cautious and thoughtful. He’s quiet and soft yet we play and giggle like children when we are together. I was so thankful to be with him because even after the theory part of class, I still has no idea what we were doing.
We dug a grave around a measured area and began to shovel snow up to the area, forming a bee-hive like shape. The snow was icy and hard and required a lot of strength to dig in. We shoveled for several hours until we had a pile of snow that was over two meters high. Several times throughout the digging, I had to jump up and step on the pile so it would be more of a hive shape than a pyramid. Once we had a good form and enough snow, we had to allow the snow to settle overnight before we were to dig into the hive the following morning.
I went to bed exhausted, having not worked like this in over 3 months. The next morning we woke up early and started the process of making our cave. We measured a doorway of 60 cm and began to dig the snow out. I let Martin start while I decorated the hut with hearts all round…our house of love! I had already invited the others in the group over for tea and cake when we finished.
Martin and I took turns digging the snow out of the cave. A process that was long and strenuous. We had to dig up into the snow, against the walls of the hut, to keep the shape and make sure that it did not collapse. I was on my back, digging the snow out, having snow fall all over me and getting wet with every shovel full. But we succeeded. The hive soon began to take the form of a cave. We stuck a stick into the walls outside and on top of the hive, 40 cm deep, to know when to stop digging so that we did not break through the walls.
We carved a tunnel from the entrance about half a body width long, which went up to a platform that we dug out. We would then sleep on the platform during the night. I was amazed at how much room there was in the cave when we finished carving and digging. We could sit up and had enough room f0r our sleeping bags and to turn over during the night. We made a small hole in the roof of the cave for better circulation.
Later that afternoon, we moved in. We brought our isomats, sleeping bags, tea canisters and warm clothes. We didn’t roll out our sleeping bags until just before we were ready to go to bed. The temperature began to drop as the moon began to rise. It was a spectacular sight. The group leaders, Matthias and Paul, had built what I dubbed “The Snow Bar” not too far from our cave. We made a fire (without matches or a lighter), melted snow and cooked soup. It was about -10 degrees Celsius outside, but the fire kept us warm. We drank tea, ate our soup, laughed and talked about what to expect during the night. Our group consisted of 27 people.
At one point or another, we all slowly decided to go to bed. It was probably around 10 pm, quite early, but after eating, drinking and anticipating what was to come, it was time to go. Martin and I slid down the hill towards our snow cave, the full moon guiding us, with snow sparkling and glittering in all directions.
As we climbed into the cave, we were quite warm from the fire and our movement. We snuggled up in our sleeping bags and chatted and laughed for a bit before trying to sleep. I was quite warm considering I was sleeping in a snow cave. I didn’t have any claustrophobia anxiety but I was a bit concerned about not having enough oxygen. I slowed my breath down and began deep breathing pranayama and soon fell asleep.
I had a very strange and fun dream:
Martin and I were sleeping soundly and suddenly I heard voices from the outside. We woke up to a red light flashing from the entrance of the cave, I heard Anja say, “Smile”, and realized it was the red-eye flash from her camera. Martin and I got out of our sleeping bags and slid down the tunnel to outside.
We slid into a Mexican rodeo, on the Texas/Mexico border, outside at the bar. There were lots of children and families around, everyone eating tacos, the children playing and Led Zepplin blaring from the speakers. Our snow hut had become a plastic tent with see through windows next to the bar. I checked out the situation, everything was feeling good and I went to get my wallet to buy a beer. I opened my wallet and it was full of cash!! I was super happy and gave Martin money to buy us beer. He took it and stayed by the bar chatting with some new friends.
In the meantime, I saw about 5 cats who were really midget-cat-people that could walk on 2 legs. They were so small that they could go under the tables without being seen. They were stealing money from people’s purses. I started to warn people about the midget-cat-people, telling them to watch their bags.
The midget-cat-people became angry with me for blowing their cover and surrounded me, ready to attack me. I was very scared and nervous and ran away. I got away easily, went through a door and was in New Mexico with Martin and our friends Katja and Robert.
Robert and Martin were whittling sticks, making tools for fire starting and Katja and I were flying kites. Pink Floyd was blasting from the speakers and we were totally chilled out and happy.
I woke up laughing and had to go to the bathroom, which was a feat all in its own in the snow cave. I got dressed and slid down the tunnel to a completely different world. I felt that I had been re-born. From sleeping in the comfort of our cave, the womb, and then suddenly to this big, bright world outside…life. The moon was full and the trees sillouhted against the sky, the snow was sparkling and it was absolutely breathtaking.
Martin joined me and we stood in awe of the beauty, of our lives, of our hearts and our decisions in life. It was truly a “YES” moment for me. This is the way, this is my way. This is magical, beautiful, amazing and possible. We smiled at each other, went to our respective trees and then returned to the snow cave. I slept like a baby for the rest of the night, completely warm, comfortable and happy.
Matthias woke us up with a Tibetan gong at 8am. I couldn’t believe we had slept so long. Again, we got dressed and slid from our warm cave into the world. The sun was just rising over the mountains, the sky was orange and pink and the snow glittered in the sunshine. I smiled inside and outside and realized that if I could spend a night in a snow cave and enjoy it, I can do anything.
Later, in our theory part of class inside, I told everyone my dream. One of our teachers was a dream interpreter and asked me many questions about how I felt in each part of the dream. It was really interesting to get an outside perspective, and she kept asking about the fear I felt with the cats. Her interpretation was that it was something connected to Texas but I had worked it out and made it safely to where I needed and wanted to be. She urged me to work it out in real life, and told me to trust my intuition because it is strong and will lead me in the right direction.
Before returning home, I went out to take one last look at the landscape and to say goodbye and thank you. I saw all of these little snow caves sprinkled throughout the snow, and I had the image of us being ice hobbits living in our little ice huts and going about our business of life. I left with a full heart, tears in my eyes, a huge smile on my face and a mind full of endless possibilities.