Mountainous Hiatus: A Mindful Power
The mind is capricious. Some days it’s resilient, some days it’s fragile, and other days still it’s persistent to revive an aged, souvenir memory buried deep under chaotic senses and hearty jubilations. We are situational beings; and we will get what we want. This power is incredible, yet overwhelmingly unrecognized and therefore underappreciated.
While on an eighteen day trek in the Himalayas, I was faced with situations I would have easily prescribed bed rest for, but in the mountains, when a hiatus is unconditionally denied due to weather conditions, I had no other option but to keep moving forward. Each day’s trek I found myself chanting one foot, then the other silently in my head (the phrase itself is a happy memory, for my sister and I use to say this to our puppy as we moved his paws forward when tired on long walks). When I think back to this trek, I rarely think of the hardships, but it is fascinating to consider all that I faced. Foot injures, nerve injuries, cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, exhaustion; none of it stopped me, nor does it stop most trekkers. At home, I would easily take the day off for any of these ailments, but in the mountains, a day off is not possible. The mountains mold you; you move with the weather, you sleep with the sun, and those early days you head out before light, you fervently pray for the sun to rise and restore but a drop of warmth to your frozen body. You don’t get a day off; but hard work is always rewarded.
With a swollen ankle, I was able to summit a peak of 18,500 feet; and let me tell you, the view was the best I’ve seen in my life. Every movement of the foot pained, but I’d come this far, how could I not push the extra mile? So how did I make it? Pure determination. Pure will. (And I won’t be deceptive, I also had a little bit of help from Advil).
This determination is not an easy thing. I’d faced a stone-cold moment where the thought crossed my mind that maybe I should turn back. This is not a normal thought for me when it comes to hiking and therefore I was furious with myself for even thinking it; but the situation itself was harsh. It was 5 AM, the sun had yet to rise, and we had already been hiking in the prolonged cold for an hour. The water dripping from my hydration pack had frozen onto my pants; my fingers were in an inexplicable state of pain from the cold; the oxygen levels were low and breathing in the icy air was an endeavor. We had barely reached the halfway point and the summit of Gokyo Ri was yet to come into view. I was towards the tail end of the ant trail of trekkers climbing up the mountain and this discouragement gave way to a dangerous thought: maybe I should turn back. Then the anger blazed through me. How could I give up? After two years of preparing for this trip, how could I turn back? I thought back to a class I had taken in college and reminded myself of the experiments that proved the healing powers of the mind. Let me become the subject and see if those experiments really had some truth behind them, I thought. So I took a raspy breath and another step forward. I can do this, the sun will rise, pain is temporary. I not only recited these cliché proverbs, but I believed them. I truly and genuinely believed them…then my body warmed. It was unbelievable. It was incredible. It was magic. There is no other way to explain it. You may not believe me, and there is nothing I can say to convince you, but this was an eye-opening experience. Experiencing the true and full power of the mind was exhilarating.
When the easy way out is an option, we effortlessly take it without thinking twice, but imagine all you can achieve if you will comfort and laziness to step out of the way. Take the breaks you need, and persevere through the ones you don’t; you have more energy than you can imagine, let your mind prove it to you.
Have you ever had a similar experience? I would love to hear about it; feel free to share below.