Wanderlust – Day 2

“Let’s get up early tomorrow and join in on a meditation hike,” said my friend Mithra. “It will be a great way to start off our second day at Wanderlust.”  I had just enough wine in me to be amenable to this suggestion. I wasn’t exactly so amenable at 6:30am when my alarm went off … but I managed to get up and at ‘em and out the door while the sun was still coming up.

Day 1 of Wanderlust was a near-washout … what with an unexpected thunderstorm that included both torrential rains and hail.  Day 2, however, was shaping up to be quite nice. It was a brisk morning and the sunrise was quickly burning off any residual low-lying fog hanging around.

Once we got to Squaw Valley, the line at Starbucks was out the door and around the building. Clearly, yogis are not as bright-eyed and bushy tailed (or haired) as I thought. Caffeine clearly gets ‘em up and at ‘em.  The hike started precisely at 8am – and required both a tram ride and a robust hike straight up a mountain. We followed a guy carrying a giant cello-thingy strapped to his back. (I later found out it was a bass, but at 8am you’re lucky I got the basic gist of the instrument correct.) Musician Garth Stevenson has played his enormous bass in the middle of Antarctica and the middle of the Sahara. Apparently, walking straight up a mountain required little to no effort.

Once the group of 50+ hikers arrived, we all found a spot to settle in to meditate.  Had the rocky terrain been more comfortable, I probably would have napped instead. The music was soothing, surreal and quite esoteric – it reminded me of the weird space music you hear in a planetarium.  Of course, it was still so early and we were up so high, you could still see the moon in the sky competing with the sun for attention.

Once back at Wanderlust’s base camp, the vendors were out in full force.  Zen has a price and there are plenty of items to purchase to enhance your yogi experience. I spotted a guy doing “music therapy”. His motto? “Tune in and tune up!” Of course, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a masterful musician bang gongs and Tibetan bowls in my general vicinity.  The sound waves were so loud; they would reverberate through your whole body.  After 15 minutes of sound vibrations coursing through my soul, I was discombobulated the rest of the morning.

Now in its 5th year, Wanderlust has become a mountain Mecca for visitors from all over the world.  Celeb yoga instructors are like rock stars here — teaching classes to hundreds of adoring fans/followers. Yoga purists can revel in the fresh air.  Unassuming tourists who accidentally stumble in can revel in the contact high of patchouli, sage and faint hints of weed.

If nothing else, you’ll walk away with a renewed sense of spirituality. There’s something to be said for being amid the sisterhood of sun salutations or the brotherhood of bro-ga.

Popularity: 2% [?]

Wanderlust – Part One

Just when I think I’ve seen it all … along comes an event for me to attend like Wanderlust.

It’s an annual gathering of yogis, swamis, gurus and really ridiculously bendy people.  It’s a 4-day schmooze fest that takes place in the oh-so serene Sierra Mountains near Lake Tahoe.

If you’ve never been, prepare yourself for some of the single best people watching on Mother Earth. Hippie culture rules the roost. Either you’re on board – or you stand out like a sore thumb. In my forty some odd years on this planet, I’ve never been self conscious about having boring, straight hair. At Wanderlust, dreadlocks are the norm … outnumbering the rest of us 2-1.

Way, WAY back in 2001, I got certified to teach yoga. So I felt a sort of kindred bond to the people here.

Lemme tell you … I’ve never been (nor will I ever be) as flexible as 95% of the people here. Are these people fanatics? Are they double jointed? How do they not have multiple compound fractures? These are questions I really want to ask, but I’m afraid because they all have a sort of glazed-over look of serenity on their face that, frankly, freaks me out.

We arrived around 3pm to a torrential downpour of rain followed by about five minutes of solid hail. Yogis were scampering for their lives and scattering to find shelter.  Many covered their heads and protected their massive containers of homemade quinoa salad.  “FOR GOD’S SAKE, SAVE THE TOFU!” one patron screamed as she dove under an awning.  I felt bad for those folks who weren’t using their yoga mats as makeshift umbrellas.  Rain + dreadlocks = yogi-pocalypse.  Everyone looked like a goldendoodle that just got yanked out of a flooded river.

The rain and hail (seriously – what the hail?) didn’t damper anyone’s mood.  As soon as the sun came back out, so did the granola, the hemp clothing and the patchouli.  I attempted to take a “yoga conditioning” class.  The first move was a one-legged standing squat followed by a headstand. I walked to a nearby bistro and squatted down on a barstool to order a glass of California Chardonnay.

Retailers were abundant. Lululemon had their own compound on the grounds. Kashi was doling out cereal and health-nut bars approximately every five feet. Headbands, jewelry and Kombucha were in bountiful supply. Yogis – not unlike gay men – apparently also have an unlimited disposable income.  I spied a $100 yoga mat for sale.  “For $100, Van Halen better be playing in person after each class,” I said to the woman hawking the wares.  She told me how they were made from recycled rubber and hand-painted.  “Each one is unique and different,” she cooed.  I gently nudged her out of the way as I spied a Starbucks only a few feet away.  They had very wisely stocked up on Chai – as nearly every person who walked in the door ordered the same drink.  Yogis of a feather … you know.  (And if I saw this slogan once, I saw it a hundred times … “Don’t panic … it’s organic.” Yes – words to live by I’m sure.)

If you ever get a chance to visit this weeklong retreat … do it. It happens four or five times a year in various locales around the universe. (Next up … Oahu.) Just go with an open mind – and an open pocketbook.  You will leave in a Zen-tastic mood, likely gain multiple tattoos … and be devoid of any cash you may have had.

It’s a chance to relish in all things spiritual and peaceful.  And – who knows – once you get here it may be like the mother (earth) ship calling you home.

Popularity: 2% [?]