February 3, 2016

We are Nothing Without the Mountain.

girl mountaintop alone

The new year is already not quite so new.

And because I see so much misunderstanding around this one point, I have decided to allow myself a rant.

Here it goes:

When the sh*t hits the fan, it doesn’t mean you’ve messed up. It means you are being given another chance to wake up. A present. A door knock. A reflection of your fundamental courage to grow.

We all want wealth, health and love. In fact, we are programmed to seek them in a divine desire to align with the vibration of delight and plenty. And when we feel lack, it is not a measure of failure, but rather a chance to choose again, to make new, to transform or rise above.

I grew up in the 1950s, an era where achievement was king. Report cards and IQ tests, militaristic ballet classes and spelling competitions were the order of the day.

Of course, I promised myself I would raise my children differently. As a young mother, I trained as a Suzuki violin teacher, loving the idea of making music a playful, joyful experience for my kids. As they advanced in our local Suzuki program I soon discovered that the impulse to compete and conform was as deeply embedded in this process as it had been in my own conservatory training, and many of the children who excelled with the method did so because they had a driven “stage” parent overseeing daily practice.

I have a vivid memory of attending a master class with a highly respected guest teacher, when one of the more headstrong children refused to participate in an exercise. This rarely happened, as the unspoken understanding was that the attending parent of such a child had either been lax in their attention, or somehow produced unsuitable offspring. Other parents would turn away their gaze and softly sigh.

In this case, the embarrassed and desperate mother attempted to covertly bribe the child with candy, hissing promises and threats alternately in his ear. While this was far from what the method teaches in its purest form, I couldn’t help but watch the scene with a sinking realization that some things never change.

When will we stop identifying worth with achievement and approbation, and projecting these confused values upon our children? When will we dare to grant ourselves permission to let our hearts lead us toward life’s inherent joys? Why does it always seem so important that we are good, better, best—and why are we so afraid to fail?

Consider our society’s obsession with sports—according to one report, sports fans and participants worldwide spent $620 billion in 2011. What is it that captivates us to make such a passionate investment?

Teams of toothless and angry men, sliding over frozen water to smack a small black disc into a net with a bent stick? Groups of very tall people wearing long socks and shiny shorts, dancing around one another in an attempt to shoot a bouncy ball into a hoop? Fast guys with a piece of inflated pigskin tucked under an arm, running to get past an opposing mob of beefy guys in tight pants and shoulder pads, to see who can get beyond a line painted on the grass?

And all with the goal of doing more, faster, better than the other guys.

And what about the temptation of extreme sports? The sheer delight of throwing yourself out of an airplane wearing a backpack with a silk sheet inside, or hurtling down a snowy mountain with bent sticks on your feet or perhaps trying to climb up that same mountain with only a few ropes and hooks to rely on.

We humans are inexplicably filled with the desire to reach for something more, to push ourselves beyond limitation. Sometimes that drive can create extraordinary feats and acts of great beauty. Sometimes it can emerge from an imbalanced hunger, a symptom of the lack of trust in our daily lives. And if you ask a climber why he wants to climb that mountain, he may say because it’s there, but more likely, because the experience itself is an inner battle with his own doubts. And this is the victory he seeks.

The mountaineer is nothing without the mountain. If he has nothing to climb, no profound challenge to push him into a new strength, he has lost his meaning—and meaning is what we are all about.

We may think we are here to claim constantly bigger and better things in our lives or to touch down on a line upon the grass, but in fact we have come to find the truth in the small moments, exactly the way things are right now—mess, confusion and heartbreak included. It may not always be pretty, but what counts is if it is real. And the more peaks we travel, we may discover that the most extraordinary souls are often those who sometimes take a serious downward slide.

If only more of us would dare face our inner fear and climb the mountain of our soul’s journey, we would soon learn that a setback in life is no cause for despair. It’s a way to get stronger, clearer, and the less energy we give to judging and blaming ourselves, the better.

Sometimes we ascend to truly daunting heights only to find out at the top that it wasn’t about the mountain, because there’s a whole world waiting. We just couldn’t see it until we got past the urge to climb.

What if we viewed the challenges of our lives differently? What if we stopped trying to fix ourselves or be something we are not? After all, we are seekers searching for acceptance, until the day we discover that we never lost it—that letting go may be the wildest ride, one we would never know without the days when the sh*t hits the fan. So the less complaining, blaming and judging, the better.

If you haven’t yet found the meaning in your struggle, don’t worry, it’s waiting for you. If you too are on a journey to restore the delight in your life, you are not alone. And who knows, there may come a day when we learn to live in harmony with the mountain instead of needing to conquer it. And our hearts will sing aloud, without threats or bribery.

One day, we may learn to trust in both the rise and the fall.


Author: AdiKanda

Editor: Nicole Cameron

Image: Drew Osumi/Flickr


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