From dust to tribe . . .

Dust and Tribe (D&T) is the experience of growth through adventure.

Our quarterly excursions are opportunities for men and women to push through the boundaries of supposed mental and physical limits into a new awareness of what we can be when we support one another.

It is where we discover what we are (dust) and what we become together (tribe).

Winter 2019: D&T Grind

On January 24th, 2019, nine men and nine women will head into
the mountains of Santa Cruz for three days and thirty miles of cold and grit. This is their story.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The World is Your Bathroom

Some of this is easy. Some of this requires practice. Much of this is intuitive. A few things aren't. There might even be a revelation or two.

But everything that follows has been managed pretty well by people for the entirety of our history.

We are travelers in this world. And what we eat, drink, and otherwise process travels through us. It's all just levels of traveling, really, and our challenge is to determine where we (and all of our internal travelers) end up.

But first, let's talk about what's weird and new and entirely unprecedented.

This is the absurdity that has us all twisted up. While none of us has a bathroom like this (if you do, unfriend me from both your real and virtual life), emotionally-speaking our bathrooms may feel like this compared to the idea of handling our business . . . outside.

This idea of an exclusive, private place to sit and relax and allow nature to take its course free of distraction or intention, like so many other manufactured expectations, is poison. It reshapes our idea of what is normal, sanitary, modest, and acceptable.

Men and women throughout history have managed their toileting outside. This is true in many places today. I believe it's a fairly crucial skill set. Adopting a learner's attitude and being open to "rustic elimination" will allow you to go places and to do things that others will only ever dream about. It will also foster empathy and connection with people who have not yet been corrupted by affluence.

We will have access to pit toilets at our trail camps. At the beginning and end of each day we can take advantage of that (bring your own TP). But for the hours and miles in between we need to plan.

Let's break this down by excretory frequency.


Staying hydrated is important. Consuming two liters of fluid over the course of a full day of hiking is realistic. More is better, less may be acceptable based on your physiology. But two liters should be fine, and God knows best.

At some point, you may have to pee. And this is how you do it.

You can be discreet, or you can make an announcement. Announcing it enhances your privacy as most people will actually make an effort to give you space and time.

Get off the trail. Find a spot behind some rocks or trees. Even if I only have to pee, I actually prefer taking EVERYTHING off below the waist. I feel cleaner and I get dope breezes. It's crazy to think that there are parts of our body that have NEVER felt wind. This is our chance to right this terrible wrong.

This plan works equally well for women. I squat, just like a woman would, and that's my contribution to the progressive movement. It's also my yoga for the day.

If the women would like an alternative to taking off their pants, there are options. I've used this with my daughters:

It works phenomenally well. There are other devices. Poke around, order something, and be sure to practice a couple of times in the shower. Sister Randa had only amazing things to say about her recent experience.


The process isn't much different from the mechanics of urination, but there are a couple of ecological considerations that require some foresight.

It's a good idea to pack a little toilet kit. Get you two 1-gallon Zip-Loc bags. In one of them, put a small roll of toilet paper, a washcloth, a bit of biodegradable soap, some hand sanitizer, and a cathole trowel:

I also take my canteen to wash my ass afterward. That totally grosses people out, but my ass sparkles and nobody asks me for water. Win-win.

Following leave-no-trace guidelines (LNT), we need to find a spot at least 200 feet from trails, campsites, and water sources. Use your trowel to dig a hole at least 6-8 inches deep and make it wide enough that you aren't likely to miss, because that would be stupid. Get your pants off and squat.

If squatting is a challenge, here are some other ideas:

Once done, clean up and put any used toilet paper into that second 1-gallon Zip-Loc bag. It might feel like a hassle, but forest critters are going to come along and check out your scat. What happens is they start digging around and they unearth your toilet paper and it's just awful to see used toilet paper all over the forest. So pack it out, get your pants on, bury your mess and cover the area with sticks or a rock. Wash your hands, spritz with a bit of sanitizer and you're going to feel like a million bucks.

This is a good place to verbalize my dislike of wet-wipes. They feel good and smell nice, but they are heavy, they are not easily disposed of, and depending on how we're using them, there could even be problematic religious issues that come up. I won't get into that here, but reach out and I'll tell you what I understand.


This is a possibility for half of our group. Check with Sister Sama for her tips and tricks, but I have heard incredible things about menstrual cups. These are widely used by active women in the wilderness community. I have received a ton of anecdotal reports about what a game-changer this approach has been from many women in my life. There is a learning curve, and some experimentation is necessary to find the balance between comfort and efficacy, but I have heard from multiple sources that the effort is well worth it. No more disposing of products. They are cost effective, environmentally sound, and apparently quite liberating.

Sexual Fluid

In a llama packing trip to the Sierras, this came up. One of the brothers woke up in trouble.

And it's not always about sex. The stress response involves areas of the brain and endocrine systems associated with aggression and reproduction. It's safe to say that there is a certain amount of (hopefully) healthy stress coming this far out of our comfort zone, and the stress response seems to incline us in the direction of fighting, fleeing, and/or fornicating. Or, if you're like me, all three at once.

I'm getting help.

While an issue primarily associated with men, the need for ritual purification exists for both Muslim men and women. I will defer to Shaykh Suhail and Ustadha Lobna on this, but it is important that we all learn the basics of tayammum, or ritual purification using earth instead of water. Temperatures in the mountains have been dropping into the 30s in the wee hours, and from a purely practical perspective, I have concerns about pouring water all over oneself under those circumstances. However, we will take direction from those who have dedicated their lives to studying these matters, and so I invite feedback from our blessed scholars.

If anything, a few days in the wilderness will invite us back to our essential and primal natures. We can get caught up in the nonsense of believing that we are a big enough deal in the scheme of creation that issues such as these are outside the sphere of general concern or discussion.

There is no precedent in our faith tradition for such a belief. We are a pragmatic people. The Islamic ideals of modesty and discretion do not excuse us from an open consideration of essential realities that attend our station as biological entities. And Muslims also understand that there is a metaphysical component associated with how we respond to our physiology.

I'm full of crap.

So are you.

1 comment :

  1. Thanks for another informative and entertaining article. Yes, since we are all full of crap, if we don't get rid of it properly, it can cause stress.
    ha aha ha:
    fighting, fleeing, and/or fornicating... all 3 at once?
    I thought the stress response caused: Fight, Flight or Freeze?
    Though the 3rd option you mention is also a good remedy for migranes and other stresses.
    They say to learn breathing techniques before meditation, to reduce stress. There is EFT tapping. And also TRE (Tension Releasing Exercise) about which I made a short video: