February 14, 2012

The Climb Before the Descent: Embracing Struggle and Release. ~ Hannah Greenstreet


Building strength while harnessing the willingness to let go.

Beyond the high of the heart-racing, adrenaline-building, fearlessness before dropping into a wide-eyed, legs-shaking decent on a rollercoaster, snow run, mountain bike trail or whatever endorphin-boosting activity, do we stop to ponder how the hell we got to the top? And even more important, in those seconds just before we drop into adventure, are we ready?

The true answer is “you better be!” Gravity is a lot stronger than us and divinity’s path is too entrenched to cover up and rebuild. Whether we are ready or not, either for a rollercoaster drop or big life change, circumstances descend upon us with surprise more often than preparation. The speed is only known once we start racing downhill. That paused moment of transition between the climb and the fall rarely is the opportune time to sit and reflect on how to best prepare for what lies ahead. That short second is only enough time to take a huge breath before pushing forward to what is awaiting in front of us.

Even though the decent is the climax of the ride, the climb breeds its own unique satisfaction. The faster the fall means the climb took longer, meaning more work and dedication. As much as it would be great to feel exhilarated and liberated flying through life with the end in our hair, there comes a time when the fall transitions back into an uphill battle.


“You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.” ~ Edwin Louis Cole

The moment of getting back up again and taking charge; putting on the brakes and switching into low gear is the time to look around and reflect on how to prepare. The climb is about gathering together all the lessons of hardship so we can appreciate the release. If we only stayed in the fast-paced thrill of the descent, the crucial and deeper experiences of life would pass us by without warning. Plus, we wouldn’t get to gaze at the view at the top!

How true is it that when it rains it pours? Uncomfortably, all too often! The moment one expectation about how something should go is ruined in our mind’s eye, of course all situations become a tornado of disappointment and we are left destructed and raw. Ironically, that’s the beauty of balancing the climb and the descent: the process of exerting effort and also releasing with surrender to the outcome. We work our asses off to get to the top just to end up at the bottom again. The angulations of life vary between balance and extremes depending on how high we push ourselves in order to expand our threshold on the drop.

The challenge becomes maintaining the balance of both with equanimity, especially in times of stress when external forces, be it our job, partner, kids, personal trainer etc. are asking us to overextend ourselves. Or most times, it just our own reflection in the mirror (a.k.a. own worst-enemy) demanding being better or different than we already are now. And we all know that once the stress starts building, releasing to an outcome with no expectations becomes harder to do. And why is that? Because we start putting each drop of our blood, sweat, and tears into our job, partner, kids or new diet/workout regime and by God we want to ensure that we do not fall and fail!

The wonderful thing about abolishing the word ‘fail’ in our personal vocabulary is always remembering that the ascent will come again. If we spend all our time driving upward in fear, the fall will grow to be too dramatic to handle safely. Then we have to abruptly abort, hopefully before we crash and burn. Can it be that struggle does not have to be so extreme and that release does not have to equal giving up? Learning to maintain an effective speed in our lives can be counter-intuitive to our ego’s lust for intensity.

Here’s an idea! Take a moment (maybe two), and notice those aspects of your life where you are spinning out of control, or on the flip side, going what feels like nowhere. Then, allow yourself to trust that the speed of your life will never spin you out-of-control (not completely). And when the summit seems light-years away, when all energy seems lost, you must believe in yourself enough to know we already have everything you need to get to the top. But in either case, take a risk! Always wear a seatbelt or helmet, but strap-in and ski-tips up!

The amount of grace in our actions grows with wisdom (not to mention a lot of mistakes) but the trust builds the unrefined satisfaction to render the journey worth the effort. So throw your hands up in the air, free-fall but make sure to keep your eyes open to see where you’re going!

edited by Greg Eckard


Hannah Greenstreet is San Franciscan yogi by morning, non-profit enthusiast by day and organic food cooking-machine by night. Hannah is your non-average, totally unique, Colorado-born outdoorsy kind of woman. Fashionista of bright colors, running shoes and yoga pants, Hannah finds her way to bliss through handstands, seated twists, simplicity and vulnerability. The blend of teaching yoga, practicing Buddhism, and growing up with amazing mentors has blossomed into the creation of her blog, Organichannah, the compilations of her thoughts, lessons, and experiences. Take a peek or follow her on Twitter @yogahannah28.

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