Men's Retreat & Flash Flood Baptism on the Colorado River
by Bill Arena
MCLA Wisdom Council
MCLA's ANNUAL SACRED PATH spring 4-day, 3-night kayak camping men's retreat in the Black Canyon wilderness of the Colorado River was an incredibly wild and crazy adventure this year. We shared powerful work with an intimate and eclectic collection of manly mindful men on the path. Our entire group was tested in, oh, so many ways. Survivors. Warriors. Good men. Grateful. Empowered.
We enjoyed an absolutely spectacular time in Mother Nature, mindful, powerful men's work deep in the wilderness, a surprise guest visit by an amazing woman traveling alone with her dog adding sacred balance to our intense male-female work, powerfully purifying Inipi Sweatlodge prayer ceremonies, and deep male bonding with other good men.
BAPTISM ON THE RIVER __ And then, to close out our men's retreat adventure in a magnificent way and literally lock in the powerful energetic cleansings we each enjoyed in our mindful men's work, at 6:45 am on our final day we survived a flash flood that ripped through our secluded campsite.
I've personally been blessed to attend many MCLA Sacred Path men's retreats over the years but, for me, this one was definitely the most memorable, empowering and life-enhancing event ever.
RIVER SAFETY orientation meeting at the Hoover Dam Lodge Wednesday evening before our Thursday morning launch. Casino energy, neon lights, electronic music, people smoking cigarettes indoors . . . "Oh yeah Scott, we’re ready. Let’s get this show on the road."
Our small and intimate but extremely powerful group launched from the base of the Hoover Dam on Thursday morning: Jason Zelin, Richard Ford, Zach Fisher, Dylan Arena, Bill Arena, Adam Zawadzki, Michael Mohr and Scott Ewing. We were all so grateful to Dan Stanton and his father, Paul, who launched two days ahead of us to deliver the extensive Inipi ceremony supplies and firewood to our campsite on the river.
KEEP THE FIRE BURNING __ The Black Canyon Wilderness is one of the most beautiful and energetically-charged sacred spots in the world. We launched from base of the Hoover Dam. No cell coverage. No distractions. No nothing. Just sacred and divine communion with Mother Nature. Love your Mother. Feed your Soul. In the beautiful Lakota language: Pheta kin ileya han cha waste' / "It is good to keep the fire burning"
INTIMATE MEN’S WORK in the big-middle beauty of Mother Nature. We were so blessed to hang out peacefully in some spectacular and amazing natural settings and discuss and reflect upon all kinds of intimate men's topics and issues. So therapeutic. So empowering.
This amazing natural hot springs grotto is located high up on the mountain and provided such a wonderful, natural bonding experience for all the men in our group. The ages represented by the men in our group this year ranged from 33 to 82.
CLIFF DIVING __ Our personal water safety director Scott Ewing closely observes the action as we experience the Colorado River in an intimate and visceral way. Water temperature an extremely brisk 52 degrees. Huge wilderness reality check and sacred wake-up call physically, emotionally, spiritually (and thermally).
MINDFUL MEN __ Special thanks to Scott who did such a beautiful job coordinating the mindfulness aspects of this retreat and providing the topics and forum and safe space for each man to share and express and do this important work. We're also so appreciative of our own DR. STEPHEN JOHNSON who started this work over 30 years ago and helped facilitate our river trip again this spring. Many of the first-hand topics from Dr. J's book, "THE SACRED PATH: The Way of the Spiritual Warrior," were included in our group discussions. Thank you Dr. J for all your great work for the men (and the women) of our world. Mitakuye oyasin (Lakota) / We're all related. We're all in this together.
DIVINE SYNCHRONICITY __ As we’re sitting in the circle passing the sacred football and discussing intimate male topics in a good and respectful way, this woman suddenly shows up with her dog who was cold and wet from jumping in the river. She politely asks if her dog could get warmed up by our fire. Of course. Without missing a beat, our discussion suddenly gets supercharged. It's always incredible to me to witness the universe at work. In real life CHRISTINA CASTALDO is a guide and Lightworker from Phoenix. Just by "coincidence" she happens to be way out here on the river at this same exact moment camping by herself with her dog, doing the exact same work. She politely and respectfully agrees to join in our intimate conversation. It was so beautiful. Amazing sacred balance of divine male and divine female energies converged before our eyes. Our entire group dynamic so enhanced by this woman's presence. It was just what the doctor (J) ordered. So honored and privileged to spend quality time with this incredible woman and these mindful men sitting together in this beautiful, healing energetic vortex on the banks of the Colorado River.
CONNECTING WITH MOTHER NATURE __ Jason savoring the beauty of the Black Canyon wilderness and incredible peacefulness of the majestic Colorado River.
RIVER TRIP ABDOMINAL WORK __ So many personal river retreat highlights and blessings this year. Topping the list for me personally was this guy, world famous U.S. Navy veteran and Texas-based wannabe standup comedian Dylan Thomas Arena. I was doubly blessed to enjoy incredibly powerful, two-way ab/core workouts right there on the river 1) strong paddling from the bow of our vessel, AND, 2) laughing my ass off at Popeye's unrelenting, machine gun social commentary coming from the stern. Mama mia! It's a full body workout manning a canoe with this guy. Love this stuff.
INIPI SWEATLODGE __ Wopila tanka to our brother Dan and his father Paul who respectfully and carefully harvested the willows in California and then packed up the tarps and Grandfathers and firewood and tools and transported everything to Nevada and delivered them directly to our special spot on the river. This sacred Buffalo medicine (at left) arrived by canoe courtesy of Adam, a Sundance fire tender in South Dakota. Our second day on the river each spring such sacred synchronicity . . . exactly 100 DAYS to TREE DAY in the Black Hills.
NIGHT BEFORE FLASH FLOOD BAPTISM
We set up our camp at the base of this 60-foot tall rock wall. It was the perfect place. Shielded from the weather. Quiet. Intimate. Soft, sandy area to pitch our tents. Nobody around to bother us. We built a fire. Passed around the sacred football. Did some good, intimate men's work together. Settled in for our final night on the river. We were good to go . . . or so we thought.
FLASH FLOOD BAPTISM BY FIRE __ After a steady rain all night, just before dawn at 6:45 am Sunday morning we suddenly hear a big, thundering, rumbling noise echoing from the darkness somewhere high above us. Uh oh, this can't be good. Intense ominous sense of foreboding with earthquake undertones. Instantly jolted awake. BAM! Within two minutes a flood of water comes gushing out from the ravine and crashes through our tents, the ground immediately swells with rushing water and mud. Everyone scrambles to grab his tent and gear and stuff and drag everything 20 feet over to the still-dry side of the gully.
My big Kelty tent, however, won’t budge, loaded with equipment, securely staked down at the corners, rapidly filing up with water and mud and debris. No choice. Dylan whips out my camp knife, I quickly slice open my beautiful, relatively new tent and we dive in and grab all our stuff and drag everything to safety . . . . DIVINELY PROTECTED. Each man does great. It's a huge rush. Together, we all dodge the water bullet in a good way. Quite an energetic experience on many levels. This photo (above) is the after shot. Warriors working together. Survivors. Teammates. Good men. Connected. Oh yeah, we got this! Facciamolo! Come on! We can handle anything! Great empowerment energy on the river. Supercharged. Grateful.
FLASH FLOOD AFTERGLOW __ Jason models the appropriate (and obviously quite stylish) rain gear that Scott dutifully advised each of us to pack beforehand.
RIVER WARRIORS __ After we all survive our early morning flash flood baptism by raging water, we regroup, we laugh, we pack up all our stuff, carefully load up all the Inipi tarps and rocks and sacred items, then enjoy an incredibly beautiful final 8-mile trip down the river to the marina. Our brother Dan Stanton is there to welcome us home. Powerful time on the river with good men. Grateful. Invigorated.
BEST RETREAT EVER __ Big thanks to our equipment suppliers, father-son team LES & CHRIS MARTIN / BC RIVER RIDERS. Fantastic job. My son Dylan had the priviledge of riding shotgun this time on our return from the river in the equipment van to our original hotel staging area and talking mano-a-mano motorcycles with our river co-host and good friend Chris Martin, a professional motocross racer and 9-time winner of the Baja 1000.
This year's MCLA kayak river trip was an absolutely amazing time shared with some incredible men. Warriors. Survivors. Teammates. Good men on the sacred path. Yes, this was definitely our best retreat ever. Psyched now to order a new tent and begin prep for next year’s river retreat. We launch in 338 DAYS.
BRINGING GOOD MEN TOGETHER AND BRINGING OUT THE BEST IN THEM
Thank you Men's Center Los Angeles and DR. STEPHEN JOHNSON and Scott Ewing and Dan Stanton and everyone who helped facilitate another incredible journey on the Sacred Path. It was an awesome and empowering adventure with good men. Planning ahead, we launch next year on the Colorado River on MARCH 7, 2019.
MCLA DECISION TIME: Click here to read DR. J's APRIL DIRECTOR'S MESSAGE and leave your feedback for the future of MCLA's annal Sacred Path fall men's retreat at Gindling Hilltop Camp on the mountain overlooking Malibu. This is a critical transition time for the Men's Center Los Angeles. It's time right now for good men to step up to the plate. We need your feedback and your commitment. This men's work started by Dr. J over 30 years ago is more important right now than ever before. Pheta kin ileya han cha waste' (Lakota) / "It is good to keep the fire burning." CLICK HERE TO CAST YOUR VOTE!
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BILL ARENA lives in the east bay San Francisco. He's an MCLA Wisdom Council member, Men's Work facilitator/guide, Sundancer/Pipe Carrier in Lakota Sioux spiritual tradition, Jin Shin Jyutsu hands-on energy healer, Animal/Bird wrangler, Black Belt MMA instructor, Survivalist, Guided Group Meditation leader, Olympic-style Discus thrower, open water Endurance Swimmer, and head writer/editor ARENA CREATIVE GROUP. His be-in-the-moment focus graciously gifted to him by previous life Renaissance mentor and Italian paison, Leonardo da Vinci: "Sto ancora imparando" (I am still learning). “La vita è molto, molto buona.” (Life is very, very good). "Facciamolo" (Come on dudes. Let's do this).