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__________ Starts with the First Step

Over the break I travelled to Thailand with my Aunt, where we went to a resort in the hills, swam in a spring-fed pool on the mountain top, ate well, watched the sun rise and set from our balcony… and went on hikes. Tisabel (AunT Isabel, shortened, or Tis even shorter) is a real walker, taking on hundreds of miles/kilometers around the world – she was my first cross country hiking friend when I was younger.

So the idea of a hike is nothing out of the ordinary for her. And in spite of my less active lifestyle at the moment, I was game as well. How the hike turned out was a wee bit different than expected, which got my mind racing about how we can connect it to the experience of our lives and of the subconscious mind.

Trouble to the Top

We started out picking our way through a field towards a mountain. When we got to the base, the expected trail to the top didn’t seem to appear. As it ended up, for the entire duration, we were all scrambling to find handholds and footholds up rocks, dodging under fallen trees and backtracking when the way got too thick with jungle. It was not the picnic I had expected. Interestingly, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have gone on that walk if I had known how hard it was going to be.

It’s like life, however, when we look back at the most challenging of times. Had we known how tough it would be, would we have taken that path anyway? The answer seems to be a definite maybe – sometimes yes, and sometimes no. Yet as we reflect on it, we have to realize that we’ve made it, no matter how bruised and battered.

Back on the trail, the bruises were accumulating. However, the group I was with were amazing. They tended to be all positive, and whether or not it was an excuse to take a break, many of them noticed plants and trees of the jungle that they brought others attention to – sharing in the wonders of the trek.

Who we travel with can positively or negatively affect our path and lightness of travel. We can focus on the slog of the climb, tuned only to the destination and our distance from it, or we can (literally) stop and smell the flowers, enjoy our place on the path, and see the journey as more valuable than just getting to the destination.

You can see the world from here

After many scratches, a less than attractive photo of me red-faced and dirty, and a long, long, scramble to the top, we made it. Perched in a tree, eating our chicken rice, we watched the 360 degree wonder of the area. We heard the sounds of birds and other animals, we felt the breeze that cooled our heated skin. It was all good.

This is where the subconscious mind can be so fantastic. It tends to be loose and easy about memories. It can recall aspects of an event with greater or lesser clarity or importance. So I could choose to recall my stumbles and bloody shin, or breathing in that glorious fresh air.

Sometimes I catch myself focusing on the difficulty of the climb rather than the enjoyment of the top. Whether inherited, cultural or habitually repeated, our sphere of attention can reinforce a way of thinking now and into the future. Sometimes we need to pause, take a deep breath, and appreciate how we got here, or even more simply that we got here. It’s not vain or proud or undeserving – we have survived all our past and through appreciation of our achievements and lessons learned, we can shift our future memories in a more supportive and positive way.

Rewards of completion… and opting out

There’s a story I often tell of a very big mountain. Walking up the mountain, you’d find many people stuck along the path, too afraid to go higher. However, some people got to the top and enjoyed the view from there. What’s the lesson of this story?

I forgot to mention that one of our group turned back. It was someone who was recovering from a knee injury and while I have to give credit for the strong start, he evaluated the path we had taken, the journey to go, and the return trip, and had bid us farewell and returned to camp. And I appreciated him doing that. Later on in the spring-fed pool, we spoke and he mentioned that he had wandered through less vertical paths and had discovered some flowers and plants he had never seen before. He read a great book and headed to the pool before us. He was happy with his decision, and so was his knee.

Sometimes we forget to give ourselves the option of opting out. Sometimes some of the events we participate in may prove to be detrimental to our physical, mental or emotional health, and we don’t have to do it. While I believe that we have fewer limits than we sometimes believe, there is strength in saying ‘no’ and choosing to take a path that might be different from the group, but is best for you.

So, what’s the lesson of the mountain story? That the people who got to the top of the mountain weren’t afraid of heights but might find their limit somewhere else.

Being compassionate with ourselves on the climb or off makes whatever path we take more enjoyable. The future is unwalked – what will your journey be?

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