Here I am standing at the base of a mountain staring at the top. It looks so very long and far from down here. To be honest, I never thought I would be here at the base and yet here I stand. I have fought, kicked, stomped and resisted coming down the mountain. I spent a long time to get where I was; lots of costs, investments, sacrifices to get up the mountain. Even with all that, this is where I’m at? Are you kidding me?
Ok so be it, I dust myself off and put one foot forward, then the next. Wow that is different. Each step reminds me that I may have to reconsider going up the mountain differently. Now what? Wide walking stances I go at it slower. No rush. No hurry.
I can hear the water flowing at a nearby creek so I stop to sit and think about my approach. I never noticed this creek before though. I clean off and stock up on water for my trail. There are others just hanging out there and we talk for a while. With an approach in mind, I stand up, say my good-byes and start forward. There are those who would disapprove of my approach but something inside me says this is just right for me. Some want me to just hang out at the creek. Yet I know I have to move on.
The wind and cold start to pick up by mid-day. Oh no – not so soon I tell myself. I just started. Fear comes in – will I make it or find myself stuck? Will others judge me, be happy I fell and say “I told you so.” I stop and take a deep breath. Standing still, I start to see many going past me on the trail and others who are being taken back down. I can’t help but want to be like the ones moving up the mountain; so fast and strong. I remember being that person. I can’t help but also watch those going down; oh so glad that isn’t me right now. One step forward – just do that much – is what I tell myself. So I start again.
By nightfall I find that there is a meeting place for dinner. There are those who want to hear about my journey so I sit at a table to share with them. It is clear that some don’t want to hear the story, so they quickly get up and leave the dining table. Something in them though looks annoyed and upset. “I’m sorry” is what I think. I didn’t mean to bother anyone else. By morning it is my journey all by myself up the mountain. How do I want to go about making my trip today? I never thought much about how I wanted to go about the trail before; I just did as I was told. This is a new experience. You mean I have options? I start lifting my head and observe the sun shining thru the trees, watch the birds fly and smell the fresh air. I start greeting those passing me, wishing them a great morning, waving and smiling. Who cares if they think I’m strange – I like who this person from the inside. It is a wonderful peaceful feeling.
Along my walk, I stop and take out a compact that has a mirror. I haven’t seen myself in a while so it surprises me. Who is this person looking back at me? I look different than the image I had in my head. Which is true? The mirror or my mind? I see all the differences, changes and bad points. I wonder if I could ever look at myself and be happy again. “Not now” I tell myself. Just move forward.
By late afternoon a storm comes in and I try to push on as if the storm doesn’t exist. The rain is coming in so hard and the earth turns to mud. I slip and start falling down the mountain. I cry, grip and hold on as hard as I can. I scream: “I don’t want to go down the hill. I don’t want to fail!” Just that moment someone hears me and runs over to offer me shelter. After helping me to this safe, dry place, she suggests that we just wait; pause. While sitting I learn from her that she heard my story over dinner the other night, but had left the table to avoid talking to me. She shares that she too fell down the mountain – many times she says, and didn’t want to be reminded of the feelings; yet she shared with me now and that meant so much to me. We exchange stories, fears, cry and laugh together. She says that we both will be fine and yet I know she can’t guarantee that; no matter how much I wish she could. Once the rain starts to slow down we help each other to get up. Standing firm, we start walking together up the mountain.
We traveled on the trail together for a while. Enjoying each other’s company and pace. However soon we reach a place that she wants to stay at, so I hug good-bye and start to move on. Something is leading me and I don’t know what it is. As I start on my own again, I look over from the trail and see a path off to the right that I never noticed before. It doesn’t look like a direct route, yet an inner force is telling me to give it a try. It is less steep and has a wider trail, so I think I’ll give it a go.
It definitely takes longer to go this new route but I am happy I took it. It isn’t the route others are taking but I’m no longer finding myself mentally distracted by watching or comparing others momentum. Nothing against those who are moving faster but this moment is just what I need. Really nice to slow down and worry less about getting somewhere. Just be right here. Eventually the modified trail starts to join back to the main one; the one I know so well. From here I know it is stepper and harder. Yet I’m no longer afraid of it – I can go about it faster, slower or stop anytime I need.
Nightfall is starting and I start to see fireflies. The sun is setting and the moon is just starting to reflect its shape. Climbing higher I feel the altitude changing. I remember this place and yet it seems different. Wait – did someone make changes? Or could it be that I am seeing more than I ever did before? By morning I wake to see way out to the horizon. The sunrise is allowing me to see the colors of the suns rays off the clouds I never noticed before.
Just as I’m moving up my trail, my heart starts to beat really fast. I see a group taking someone down the mountain. He looks hurt or injured. I step out of the way and I see that I know him. I know there isn’t anything I could say or do right now though. I simply have to let him just be and hope that those helping him will help him on his path. My way of helping him was just to get out of the way.
By late evening I find myself at a strange spot. This was it. This was where it happened. This is where I had reached before I fell. Wow – this took more time to arrive at. Yet I’m standing here and I’m definitely not the same person. It isn’t different or better. It is just a place.
That is when something dawns on me. Each step on the journey was better for me when I just experienced the moment. When I stopped focusing on looking so far ahead – where I wanted to be. It was never about reaching the peak, place or spot. We are all going up, down and side paths of the mountain of life. The wisdom comes from seeing that the fear of falling doesn’t mean that you failed. You tried – congrats you won!
If you are lucky, like I was, there are those lovely people on the trail that will help you if you ask, those that come and sit with you in silence and those that you never had to ask at all. To all of you who came to me, especially these past 12 months, I want to thank you for helping me on my mountain trail. Jai Bhagwan!
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next things that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt.