Staying on trail and minding the gap: essential as we course through life

Via Nadine McNeil
on Apr 18, 2011
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In sync with Nature, standing tall in Tree Pose

This past weekend, I was blessed to engage in one of my many life-long dreams – to hike to the peak of Jamaica’s Blue Mountains.

Located 7400 feet above sea level, these magical mountains that derive their name and color from the illusion of the perpetual mist at its peak, is home to some of the world’s best gourmet coffee – Jamaica Blue Mountain.

We began our trek at the recommended time of 0230 hrs, setting the intention to arrive at the peak just in time for sunrise. On the eve of the full moon, as we meandered along the path, the moon’s feminine presence provided us with gentle light. There is something truly sacred about being a part of that micro-instant where night is transformed into day, where the Feminine (moon) gives rise to the Masculine (sun).

The sunrise bit is always a gamble, given weather conditions. Suffice to say that upon our arrival, as one of the other trekkers mentioned, it felt like Sunday morning in Wales rather than us basking like island lizards upon a stone atop the mountain. Grateful for my achievement of having arrived at the top, my physical discomforts robbed me of the full potential to embrace and enjoy the moment.

Being an achievement oriented kinda gal, upon set-off, I must confess that I was nervous about whether I’d make it to the peak. Having broken my right ankle in September 2010, this climb would be a true test of my ego, endurance and will. Thankfully, they all seemed to balance themselves out and supported each other quite well along the way.

While the trek was undoubtedly arduous, besides that tiny bit just before the final stretch where I realized that I was cold, exhausted and hungry – a lethal cocktail that sets off my short-temperedness – at no time did I feel taken physically beyond my limits.

Where I was however confronted, challenged and tested was at the mental plane. Being in and walking with nature is for me, the ultimate meditation.

Mother Nature bears witness to us, tapping into all of our senses – the smell of the pine trees, the breath-taking sight of the expanse of ferns that adorn the mountains, the taste of cool, crystal clear mountain spring water quenching our thirst, the strong, rough consistency in the feel of the barks beneath our fingers and by no means least, the serenade of the birds, the crickets and the gentle wind of Mother Nature flapping her arms to hug us even closer to her breast.  Aware and observant without attachment, I was transported deep within as I engaged my resonant yogic breath.

As I placed one foot before the other, taking each breath and each moment as they came, I was somewhat taken aback when I noticed some long unresolved stuff climb to the surface of my mind.  Immediately I felt my body and breath tense in reactionary resistance to these vampire thoughts that threatened to suck my precious energy that I so needed to get me over the hump, literally and metaphorically.

This long overdue release was later transferred to my partner who in love tried to encourage me to engage my arms in the walk to help me with balance and velocity. Defiantly, I retorted that I needed my hands on my hips as I felt more balanced taking this approach.

Knowing each other as well as we do, when I later shared with him the various elements that arose during the walk, he acknowledged that he felt it based on the shift in my intonation when I resisted his suggestion.

Heeding to the signs of life

Juxtaposing the analogy of this climb to my life, as we came upon this sign, I smiled to myself in validation. There were many a short cut we might have taken as we climbed up the mountain however these three words served to remind that the road is not for the swift but for those who can endure.

When we are focused, staying on trail poses less of a challenge than when our route, journey and destination are lost in a fog.

In those moments when taking the next step seems too daunting, staying on trail means that we only need concentrate on literally the next step, lifting up one foot and placing it in front of the other, in the unwavering faith that all will be well.

We made it to the top in supposedly record time for a first timer, less than 3 hours.

Our descent took a bit longer as we paused several times along the way to smell the plants, taste the marigold yellow cheese-berries – similar to raspberries in appearance, taste and texture – in full bloom, take photographs, laugh and swap life stories.

Delectable cheese berries

We paused for a while at Portland Gap, where we sat, munched on our provisions of raw nuts and spring water, before setting off for the final stretch where a scrumptious and very well deserved Jamaican breakfast served with the most exquisite coffee I’ve ever had awaited our return. Picked, dried and brewed right amidst the coffee plantations, the taste was unlike anything I’d ever experienced.

It was café noir dark and velvety smooth and prepared the old fashioned Jamaican way.  Sharing the story with my mother about the joy of this coffee, recalled her own childhood memories where her mother also grew and brewed her own coffee and the ritual that it evoked in their family.

Jamaica's Blue Mountain coffee plant

Minding the gap while perched upon a rock stool at Portland Gap served to reinforce the need for us to take time out every now and again to be mindful of and grateful for the gifts and lessons that Life continues to throw our way.

Trust the path and stay on trail.

And so it is.

For more about the Blue Mountains and Jamaica, visit:


About Nadine McNeil

Yogini. Humanitarian. Spirited. Compassionate. Storyteller. All of these words conjure up aspects that make Nadine McNeil the person she aspires to be: an evolutionary catalyst committed to global transformation. Now fully devoted to expanding the reach of yoga through what she refers to as the “democratization of yoga,” she designs and delivers workshops to a wide cross-section of communities who ordinarily may not be exposed to nor reap its benefits.To join her mailing list and to learn more about her work and receive special offers, please click here.


6 Responses to “Staying on trail and minding the gap: essential as we course through life”

  1. Your vivid writing always makes me feel like I was right there with you, Nadine. I'm exhausted from the climb.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

  2. Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  3. Nadine says:

    Wow, thanks a ton Bob. That's huge! I'm still recovering at various levels and perspectives from the climb. Bless, Nadine!

  4. Sherie Ranston says:

    Once again I am filled with so much sadness as I feast on the experience of your trek Nadine! It has always been a dream of mine to journey to the Peak. I have had two failed attempts over the years and just accepted it was not to be. Yet everytime I hear or read about someone's successful climb I am filled with so much regret.
    Thanks for sharing your experience, at least for now, until I can one day experience it for myself I am reluctantly happy to simply hear how gratifying it is. Sherie

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