Like many other Cape Breton kids, Sean Drohan often vacationed with his family at the Smokey Valley Campground & Park. The meandering streams,waterfalls and calm pools invited exploration, and explore he did—he now has over twenty years experience working as a wilderness guide throughout the Cape Breton highlands. And he knows Smokey Valley like the back of his hand.
In the late 70s, Tibetan meditation master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was visiting Cape Breton, and when passing Smokey Valley, commented that its name should be “Kalapa”, as the valley itself contained a potent energy that would contribute to the worldwide development of spiritual teachings. A few decades later the property was purchased by Shambhala; its name was changed to Kalapa Valley, and it has become the geographic and energetic centre of Shambhala Centres worldwide. It is now used mainly for retreats by senior Shambhala teachers, but is still used for family campground vacations as well. And Sean, now a yoga and meditation practitioner is a guide for backcountry hikes there.
The physical aspect of yoga has its benefits, but it is primarily a preparation for meditation, the deepest aspects of which are a large part of Asthanga yoga. As it was originally practiced, yoga was a mindfulness practice from which a greater awareness of the true nature of mind could arise. Through meditation, one might learn to see things as they really are, and eventually become more helpful to others. Feeling he was missing this component of his practice, Sean went to a local Shambhala Centre for meditation instruction, as he had heard that they “did it right.” He says that neither climbing a 400 foot wall of ice nor ocean kayaking in 15 foot waves is as dynamic as sitting on a cushion doing meditation practice.
A back country tour of Kalapa Valley takes about four hours. The effort required is “moderate”, but if you are up for something more challenging, Sean can deliver on that, too. “A connection with the wilderness,” he says, “can bring one fully and powerfully to the present moment, when subtle energies that are beyond the intellect can be felt; the mountain tops point to open space, a visual reminder of the underlying openness of our normally busy minds.” When he takes city-dwellers on a hike in Kalapa Valley, they sometimes experience a sense of timelessness; this can be awe-inspiring, and at the same time can feel very natural, or familiar, like coming home.
Sean manages to keep fairly “unbusy”, teaching yoga in Halifax workplaces, yoga studios and in private classes. He is currently in production for season three of the path of yoga, his syndicated TV show, produced by Eastlink television. And his book, “The Kalapa Valley Guide Book: Kalapa Jong Lamyik” that will point to the physical, spiritual and subtle energies of Kalapa Valley, should be out in 2012.
His best advice to yogins and yoginis? Make your primary practice with a teacher. You can learn a lot from books, but a teacher can help with the variations in body types with regard to posture, alignment and so on, helping you get the most benefit from your practice.
Best advice on what to bring on a wilderness hike? Chocolate covered almonds. No reason…he just likes them.
You can contact Sean at: firstname.lastname@example.org
For information on yoga equipment that we carry at Drala, drop in to our store, or give us a call on our toll-free line above. We stock most Manduka products: Black Mat Pro, ProLite, Eko, EkoLite and Folding Travel Mats; carry bags, eQua towels, cork blocks, straps and water bottles. Enrich your practice with our yoga books and CDs, om jewellry and shoulder bags!