Author and meditator Gail Storey hiked the Pacific Crest Trail with her husband Porter Storey

(Note: below is a summary, not the entire transcript of the interview)

Gail Storey has meditated since the seventies, and has also authored 3 books.  The Lord’s Motel, was praised by the New York Times Book Review as, “a tale of unwise judgments and wise humor.” Her second novel, God’s Country Club, was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection. She has won numerous awards, and her fiction, poetry, and essays have been widely published.

The book that is relevant to the Meditation Freedom podcast, and in which she talks about her experiences with meditation, mindfulness as well as perhaps the most awesome trails in the US, called the pacific crest trail, is a memoir called, I Promise Not to Suffer: A Fool for Love Hikes the Pacific Crest Trail. The book won a number of awards, the National Outdoor Book Award, Colorado Book Award, Nautilus Silver Award, and Barbara Savage Award from Mountaineers Books. It was praised by Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, as “Witty, wise and full of heart.”

I Promise Not to Suffer: A Fool for Love Hikes the Pacific Crest Trail is the hilariously harrowing story of Gail and Porter’s hike of the 2,663-mile trail from Mexico to Canada over the highest mountains of California, Oregon, and Washington. In their fifties, they carried Porter’s homemade ultralight gear to climb and descend twenty miles a day, trudge across the searing Mojave Desert, kick steps up icy slopes in the High Sierra, and ford rapids swollen with snowmelt. Through the permeable layer between self and nature,  they walked deeply into the wilderness of love, and the question Who am I?

A former administrative director of the University of Houston Creative Writing Program, Gail now writes, hoopdances, and jumps out of cakes, not necessarily at the same time.

She writes:

“I have a hunger to hike the whole trail” , Porter (Gail’s husband asked her), “It’s been growing in me for years, intensified by the work with people living their dying. But what keeps you going?” [Gail writes] For once I was at a loss for words. What wanted me out here? Not my body, it was falling apart. Not my thoughts, alternately confident and doubtful. Certainly not my emotions, unreliable in their swings from high to low. I wanted to be with Porter, yes, but even more, I felt inseparable now from the vast green and blue and white of the wilderness. I looked out on the lake, shimmering under the moon. I was as sturdy as the trees. I flowed over obstacles like water over rocks. I was as solid as the mountains, as clear as the sky. The wind blew through my heart. I was what knew the wind. What knew the world was here in me, pulsing in the trees, water, rocks, mountains, moon

Questions asked in the interview with Gail Storey

I’d like to start with how you got started on a meditation path, what prompted you to start thinking of doing a meditation practice? and why Buddhism?

You did some long retreats, how did those retreats and practice help you in our daily life?

Moving on to a different type of meditative retreat, let’s talk about your book, “I promise not to suffer, A fool for love hikes the Pacific Crest Trail”.

When you and your husband Porter where thinking about this epic trip along the Pacific Crest Trail, you were initially not totally thrilled with spending time in nature, as you say on the first page of your book, you “never much cared for nature, or rather, thought it OK, as long as it stays outside”. Was it the sense of your own mortality, as well as the circumstances (Porter quitting his job) or also those years of practice influence your decision to join your husband? (since you couldn’t join him on the Appalachian Trail).

Besides spending alone time, and relief from stresses of career, was it also nature that was calling you?

As you went further down the PCT, your relationship with nature changed…

You also mentioned that you wanted to fully experience each moment, instead of the endless “Cartesian chatter” as you call it.

You wanted (as you mention on page 94) the wilderness to make such claims on my body that my thoughts would settle like silt on the bottom of a lake.

Maybe you can describe a bit the experience you had on the trail, starting with suffering. As the book said, you made a distinction between pain and suffering. Explain what you mean with that to the audience.

Where you no longer had a clear sense of inside/outside. Where your persona, your face (as you say), everything dropped away, and your relationship or identification with nature transformed.

How has this affected your sense of authenticity?

Your husband Porter called it a vision quest, what was the main insight he got from this trip?


You can find out more about Gail:

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