A Journey

There’s something about the mountains. Their majesty is so unquestionable, their power so mighty that all are humbled in their presence, and the least spiritually inclined man is left speechless with a bursting heart in that frozen moment of awe when he first sets his eyes on the snowy peaks.

Faced with such magnificent creations, proudly steadfast against all of nature’s callous vagaries, it is impossible not to feel the ache of existence, that sensation known to all if only once in a lifetime that there must indeed be something greater than human knowledge can conceive of to have given rise to such impossible beauty. And in this moment of wonder we are nothing, no one, nowhere; we are part of the mountain, its ancient folds and ridges, troughs and peaks, its contours carving and cutting through the crisp air with blinding white lines in its lumbering steady growth; for the Himalaya continue to push up towards the heavens with no regard for the limitations of time or gravity, a testament to our planets’ constantly evolving state.

It was the mountains that lured me to Nepal.

The mountains, with their unspoken promise of wisdom, of courage, of truth, a key to turn in that secret lock in your heart where the deepest truths of your being lie hidden. I was careful not to create any expectations for what might happen but only to carry one intention with me; to be open to that key.

Inevitably therefore I encountered the key and let it turn inside the lock, and beautiful little secrets started to tumble out, one after the other, like tiny diamonds sparkling with perfection and gloriously pure. It took a while for that to happen though; there was a lapse between the unlocking and the emergence of the secrets – not long, about a week or so – which I have found is often the case in life; that great truths, great creativity, the grandest parts of human experience come about after an incubation period of sorts.

In the weeks before I left, I kept getting this feeling of certainty that things would never be the same. I didn’t know what to make of it, didn’t know if I should be afraid. I still don’t know to what extent this is true because it’s too soon, but I know this adventure changed me in some very profound ways. When we travel it is easy to be present, fully aware, great observers of ourselves and our experience. Synchronicities occur on a daily basis. Gratitude and wonder become commonplace. And this deep presence inevitably humbles us, opens our hearts, and in the rich plethora of inner experience that we then succumb to, we make discoveries about ourselves that shake the very foundations of what we thought of as ‘I’.

Some random moments of joy and insight:

♥ My favourite moment on the trek: It was early, and the morning sun was shining down on us as we made our way round the mountain, too stunned by the spectacular scenery all around us to speak. Our side of the valley was arid and desert-like, behind and beside us lay white mountains outlined by blue sky and dauntingly beautiful, and the only sounds were those of occasional birdsong and the distant gushing of the river on the valley floor far below. We rounded a corner, and suddenly encountered the most incredible gift of all – two eagles soaring and wheeling on the currents just above our heads. They sank down and circled beneath us and then rose up and past us again in a display of elegance and power that transfixed us all – rooted to the spot I laughed and cried and turned with them, and a torrential tide of gratitude flowed from my heart

♥ After a 500m climb up to his cave at 4000m, I received a blessing from a 96-yr-old Buddhist lama for my crossing of the Thorung La pass. Afterwards I sat a little way from the cave and meditated in the sun, surrounded by  6 white peaks of the Annapurna range, all of which approach 8000m, a view of the river winding through the Manang valley below, and eagles looping effortlessly above

♥ I laugh at the impossible majesty of my surroundings, at the depth of my own gratitude, at the impossible amazingness of the fact that I am actually here. I laugh at my awe, at my wonder at this beauty spread out before me like a painting by a divinely talented artist

♥ Courage and faith are all you need

♥ In meditation, I came to understand that I’ve been asking to see the picture of the puzzle before starting to place pieces; that’s not how it works – I have to start putting down the pieces and rearranging when it doesn’t work and then slowly I’ll start to see the picture. Life is the art of extrapolating forwards with limited knowledge of what the picture will look like – all we have to do is make sure we like each piece we place, so that somehow down the line, we’ll start to see the shape taking form and the whole endeavour will begin to make sense

♥ Gratitude is my path – it humbles me until nothing is left of ego and I see through my heart

♥ The day I crossed the pass I was alone, a bit ill, and uneasy. My blessing-thread had broken during the night which did nothing for my morale. I was scared that the headache and irritability off the last two days would evolve into more serious altitude sickness, that I might end up being incapacitated and needing help. As I ascended I became nauseous. I still had 600 of the 1000m to go, and the altitude made my legs feel like lead and each step thudded in my skull. To my delight, a familiar figure approached – Jeff, a Canadian whom I had met a few days previously, also travelling alone. We became a team, neither wanting to give up on the other; and so we made it, after 5 long hours of tiny steps, to the 5,400m pass – the widest in the world. On the way down, waves of emotion kept washing over me: I did it

♥ From meditation: Curiosity is a big part of living a happy life. If you manage to maintain an observer state it is possible to approach all moments of your life with openness and curiosity

♥ My 11-day trek (the Annapurna Circuit to Jomsom) taught me the power of putting one foot in front of the other, over and over. I never knew I could walk that far, that long, that high. I underestimated my strength, my endurance, my will. Mostly though, I underestimated the power of just putting one foot in front of the other, over and over

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The day I left for Nepal, I started reading “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed, an account of her hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, and on the second page found her hope for the adventure, which beautifully summed up my own:

“It was a world I’d never been to and yet had known was there all along. A world I thought would both make me into the woman I knew I could become, and turn me back into the girl I’d once been.”

And isn’t that somehow what we’re all striving for all the time? To regain our childhood awe whilst evolving into the men and women we knew we could be when we lived in that state of wonder, when everything was possible, and when we believed we could fix everything that was wrong with the world?

[The song that accompanied me throughout my journey :]

There are photos on my Facebook page in case you’d like to see them :)

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