Many a time, when we think that we have already learnt what we need to and move on to the next chapter, we are forced by the unpredictable nature of life to go back to the previous chapter. This step backwards is a reminder of our forgetful nature , when it comes to learning from our experiences.
Early this year, I had posted a poem that reflected what I had learnt from my trip to Spiti: a sampler of the harsh yet inexplicably beautiful Himalayan terrain. I had convinced myself that I had expressed all that I had learned, in those few words. However, sustainable living was not the only lesson that the imposing mountains taught me.
I am not a seasoned mountaineer or even an amateur trekker, although I always nursed the desire to be one. As a fifteen year old, I was thrilled about my first hike up a small hill close to my city. The strong breeze that hit me when I reached the summit seemed to bring along with it a strong sense of satisfaction, while blowing my self-doubts away. I have since been to many mountains and hills, albeit in the comfort of a vehicle, which could never substitute the feeling of completeness resulting from a climb. The physical effort somehow always seems to render the sights more beautiful and the mountain air sweeter.
Now, I’m not too sure if it is a universal phenomenon, but with my growing number of years, there was an exponential growth in fear of things to come and a fall in the intensity of my carefree attitude. For some unknown reason, I had also developed a fear of heights [and flights] which was in great conflict, with my desire to scale mountains.
And so, for my thirtieth birthday, I decided to gift myself a trip to one of the remotest part of the Himalayas, just to be able to disprove my irrational fears. The fervor with which I chose the destination and booked the flight, began to wane, as the jeep took my husband and I through the landslide infested region. In spite of the first sight of the snow capped mountains, panic struck with every foot we climbed, I began to yearn for my long lost friend – my sense of adventure. I was further discouraged by listening to the anecdotes of the climbers, who were returning, without making it to some of the destinations of a higher altitude, thanks to their altitude sickness. I was sure at that point, that I would definitely succumb to the lack of oxygen, and would therefore be unable to overcome my fears or to turn my dreams into reality.
Fortunately, I was driven into facing my dark thoughts, when our jeep was hit by a falling rock. The rolling pebbles that were of a size no bigger than dry dates, which owing to the height from which they were falling and the speed,began to pierce not only the windshield, but also my thoughts. As I panicked, the driver began to move forward at a great speed on the narrow strip in the mountain, that pretended to be a road. Although none of us were hurt, the sight of a web of cracked windshield almost killed my spirit. As my anxiety was brewing, the 21 year old driver’s words pulled me out of my state of shock.
“Never stop! ” he yelled. “Never stop in your tracks, even if a boulder is threatening to fall on your head, for if you stop in fear, you will turn it into reality, keep moving and don’t stop , not even to look back at the damage done”. His words were ringing for long in my head , even as we began to venture into safer regions. The words seemed to bare my not so healthy ways of dealing with my inner demons, stopping and letting my irrational boulders of anxiety fall on my head.
The new found realization, as much as I would have liked it to, did not magically and immediately transform my doubts into gold. It did however, ignite a healthier thought process, which would help me in my journey ahead. Towards the last leg of the trip, we had to trek to one of the highest villages in Asia. It was easier than I thought it would be, save for a few steep slippery paths which shook my confidence. As I stepped on the loose soil, my heart sank looking down the steeper sides of the trail . The words “Don’t stop!” echoed in my head. At that moment, I learnt that if I let panic rule, then I would get shaky and definitely lose my footing. Standing still and looking back wouldn’t help in running back nor in making any progress. Looking forward, only reminded me of the long tiresome path ahead. The only way forward was to focus on the step I was taking, not down, not behind nor ahead, I just needed to focus on that spot where I would place my foot, at that moment without letting my fear interfere.
And just like that, my fear began to slowly melt, encouraging me to take more confident steps, on my own, towards a higher point. Fear- which had almost become my traveling companion, was now replaced by the reassuring, rhythmic sounds of my foot on the surface of the mountain. The mountains, that reminded me once more the value of focusing on the present, not letting the fears of the past and the uncertain future hold me back from reaching that peak of life.
“Don’t stop climbing the mountain of life, in fear of the rolling boulders and shaky grounds of uncertainty” – A beginner’s lesson from the mountains in Spiti that pops in to say hello, every time I get stuck in the narrow path of self-doubt.