Sacred Rok's in need of a van to transport kids to Yosemite and back. That’s where we come in, every dollar you sponsor goes toward acquiring a van. Without it, the kids stay disconnected from the initiation that is waiting to happen.
You can sponsor me as I train for the Old Ghost Road 85k Ultra on February 25, 2017, an epic track through the wilds of New Zealand’s South Island. Over the last 20 years I’ve come to find that running in the wilderness weaves my spirit into all that beauty, all that life. Through the deep focus required of pushing myself physically I am capable of transcending mundane human experience and connect to a deeper intimacy with nature. Every long run is an initiation connecting me to life. As Stephen Jenkinson says, “Living depends on all kinds of things including our stamina, curiosity, willingness to know difficult things, and courage.” Running is a metaphor for living. Running trails is my spiritual practice.Read More
Here’s the thing, nature is the key to it. There is no transcendence happening when I run city streets. In fact, the opposite happens, I feel beat down by the cement, the traffic, the commerce. So when I think of kids locked up in prison I think of all the ways they got there, all the inequities of our society that put them in the streets in other ways, and how much damage that does to a person, to their soul. If a child is to be restored to life surely one of the few and most important ways is through the initiation of nature. Sacred Rok makes so much sense to me. The program begins the sacred process of rebalancing each individual through getting them into the wilderness and creating relationship to all living things, trees, water, animals, each other and themselves. Sacred Rok founder, Ron Kauk says, “My job is to facilitate the ceremony of nature.” With his 40+ years of rock climbing in Yosemite, I can think of no greater facilitator.
Currently Sacred Rok works with the kids at Bear Creek Academy at the Iris Garrett Juvenile Justice Program in Merced, CA and are looking to expand the work beyond Merced. They are in need of a van to transport the kids up the mountain to Yosemite and back. It’s a metaphor in and of itself. That’s where we come in, every dollar you sponsor goes toward acquiring the vehicle of transport. Without it, the kids stay disconnected from the initiation that is waiting to happen.
I heard Ron Kauk speaking about Sacred Rok’s work in an interview on KPFA’s Visionary Activist Show shortly after I’d been offered the challenge to run the Old Ghost Ultra. The challenge had come from legendary Kiwi trail runner and fundraiser, Malcolm Law. I could not turn down such an opportunity to run once again with both he and his wife Sally. We’d bonded in Mongolia in 2009 and I ran with Mal the following year on two of his initial fundraising events. Between then and now Mal and Sal had been inspirations for me during some hard years. I connected the dots, I would do the run in conjunction with raising funds for an important cause.Read More
Ron’s words resonated over the airwaves. He talked about remembering what it is to be human through connection with nature. He talked about the building of friendship and recognizing the value of your own being. This is the healing result for the incarcerated youth who go through the Sacred Rok program. Ron said, “There’s no hidden agenda. I don’t want anything from them.”
More dots connected. As an art teacher of high school aged kids this message shifted my approach to teaching. I became more aware of why I was teaching. I realized that I too had no hidden agenda. I simply wanted to share something I love, the practice of making art.
Yet another dot is my own son. Akira is now 16, a beautiful, bright, joyful African American young man. As soon as he entered high school and started changing from a boy to a man he started noticing the world around him treating him differently. The “he’s so cute” comments from any given stranger died down to be replaced with defensive stares from our unknown neighbors. This hurt him and it hurt me. I began reading Bryan Stevenson’s book, Just Mercy. I felt haunted by the statistic that 1 in 3 black males born today will go to prison at some point in their life. The odds are too steep. I’m a believer in what Stevenson says, “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done..."
It took me a few weeks to work up the courage to email Sacred Rok. I thought, why the heck would they want a nobody to fundraise for them? But this story is all about turning what seems impossible into a possible thing. Holding my breath I pressed send and off the email went. A few months later I found myself sitting in conversation with Ron at his campsite in Tuolomne Meadows for many hours. It was a meeting of kindred spirits. We both shared many stories of how our experiences in nature taught and healed us. It was catalyzing quickly in me, that the incarceration of our youth is a massive wound in the body of our society and it needs healing. Sacred Rok is doing that work.
“When I go to Yosemite I feel like I can honestly be who I am. I can escape my problems in a healthy way. I take that first breath of fresh mountain air, and I inhale nothing but good positive energy, and when I exhale my problems are released out of my body. I love the beauty of Yosemite. It encourages me and gives me hope that I can make my life beautiful too.” —quote from B.M., a formerly incarcerated teen.
Sacred Rok is a small nonprofit 501(c)3 based in Yosemite, California. The mission of Sacred Rok is to support youth in nature. They accomplish their mission through taking young people on camping trips, educational presentations, and working with other youth-serving agencies.
Often enough I live fair and steady, making my way toward small and big goals of all kinds. Achievements and failures happen. Learning happens. As it is, I’m still integrating the events of a week ago, the sweet respite of easy visiting, sharing time and space with good good people; the stress-infused 48 hours preceding the race; and the 13 hour-long run day that comprised …
The temperate Western forest is alive in the Winter rain season, shifting and changing more dramatically than in the dusty heat of Summer and Fall. The rains pull soil out from under trailside trees exposing a complexity of roots. I wonder when this big old tree will lose it’s footing and come crashing down. A good number have already fallen on this well traveled trail …