October 20, 2010

A year with no car? A meditation teacher goes on the biggest adventure of his life--in his own backyard.

When's the last time you were able to go on an adventure at home? For Kurt Hoelting a year at home proved to be the biggest adventure of his life. On Monday night I attended a book reading by Hoelting, a commercial fisherman, wilderness guide, Zen practitioner, and meditation teacher who recently spent a year refraining from driving his car and flying in airplanes. Instead of relying on carbon-emitting transportation, Hoelting traveled by foot, bicycle, and sea kayak, always staying within a 100 mile radius of his home in Puget Sound, Washington. Hoelting's yearlong experiment--motivated by the "gaping hole" that existed between his convictions about climate change and his own carbon footprint--allowed him the rare opportunity to go on a pilgrimage at home. From Circumference of Home:

It feels as if I've been waiting days for the first glimmers of dawn to announce the end of this interminable night in the forest. The great horned owls notice it first, offering soulful, lengthy discourses on the change of light that pull me out of my uneven sleep. Even the soft bed of moss that served as my mattress has gone stiff with the cold. The tarp around my sleeping bag is covered with a heavy frost that pours like sand down a chute into my sleeping bag as I stir myself to rise. My boots are rigid, too, and it is an effort just to tie the laces. I corral my gear as quickly as I can into the pack and leave the forest in the same conditions as I arrived, with barely enough light to see and barely enough clothing to hold the cold at bay.

As pilgrims from St. Patrick to Basho have found, such discomforts go with the territory, so I'm not complaining. Though I'm not traveling to a far-off place, what I share with pilgrims of old is a common desire to find vistas into the depth of the world that have become hidden from view in the day-to-day preoccupations of my life, to reinvest the ordinary terrain of living with a sense of numinous presence.

To learn more about The Circumference of Home and Hoelting's guided sea kayaking retreats--which invite participants to engage in contemplative inquiry in an "effort to heal the growing rift between inner and outer ecology"--visit insidepassages.com.

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NellaLou's picture

Have never owned a car or had a driver's license. Nor have most of the people in the world. Wow!

Rev. Trevor Maloney's picture

A friend of mine and his ladyfriend are swearing off riding in cars for a year: http://pedalinggreen.blogspot.com/

middleway's picture

How novel. i haven't owned a car since 1982 and rely solely on bike or foot for most of my local transportation. Maybe I should write a book... "look at me, look at me, I'm so wonderful."

Morning Star Dhamma's picture

Another idea: spending a year fully present in this very body. Or even just a few minutes.

KP's picture

Hooray for staying put! The compulsive oil-burning wandering that we Americans do with impunity has been a bit of a taboo topic in the ecological conversation - Kudos to Kurt Hoelting for contemplating the universe in his own back yard.