The place was Yosemite, and the hike was called, Half Dome.
The time was dawn, we all sat at the campground table eating our oatmeal and fresh oranges. Voices were quiet because we all new what awaited us. A 14 mile hike, 8 of which going straight up 100% granite rock, at 8,000ft. I guess you could say, that morning, I was not a “happy camper”. Yosemite officials were asked to rate the hike from a 1 to 10 scale. The hiked ranked in at an 11.
After a quick prayer, and some brief stretching, my friends and I set out to conquer this mountain. As we began to climb I became quickly aware of the fact that I was not in the best of shape of my life, and that Wing Stop had begun to take its toll. I had started the Insanity workout plan , and was now in week 3. However, Shaun T and all of his “Shaun T-Ness” could not prepare me for this journey. Apparently, Half Dome didn’t care that I had mastered the art of a jump push up kick with a side twist into a yoga half stretch while keeping my eyes fixated on a screen. This was going to be a battle of the mind, and a will of the spirit. I would need to re-adjust my mindset, and try to block out body pain, and do my best to focus. After a couple miles it became most apparent that this mountain wasn’t going anywhere for a while, and that I could choose to, as Rafiki so eloquently put it, “run from it or learn from it”. I wanted to use this hike, this challenge, as a symbol for the challenges in my life.
The Dome itself is a huge point formed out of rock that can be seen from miles away. At a certain point of the hike, one can see the tip of the rock starring back at you. As if were telling you, “I’m way too far away, you should just give up now” “Just call it a day, turn around” And if I was by myself, I might have done that. When the stretches on the trail became long, the earth under my feet, the trees, and incline would all start to feel and look the same. This realization would cause my mind to drift, subsequently, making my eyes look down at the mountain before me.
When I looked down, I couldn’t help but think about all the reasons why I could not finish this challenge. I could clearly see under me, to the sides, and behind me. The more I looked at my feet, the more they hurt. The more I thought about how much they hurt only gave more weight to the idea of quitting.
It was if the mountain was all I could see, and therefore all I could think about. I would lose the urge to wonder and imagine what it was going to be like to celebrate when I finally got to the top. Instead of reminding myself what that feeling of accomplishment would be like, the only thing I could think was that I hope I could get a few more feet.
The first thing I realized that I must do was to keep my eyes up. Instead of looking down, I had to make myself look to see where I was going, and more importantly, to where I wanted to go. I had to push myself to imagine, to wonder and to picture the sight of all my friends and I celebrating at the top. For the vision will pull you forward. And it was so. It really is a biological trip, when I would force my head to stay up, my eyes would literally pull my body to the next point. It was as if my body was saying, if you can look there, you can get there. As I walked, I began to pinpoint some areas in my life where I need to start looking up. Areas where I had to challenge myself to see exactly what I wanted the finished product to be, no matter how great the problem was.
Whatever mountain you are on, or situation you are in, remember to do whatever it takes to keep your eyes up. Look to where you want to be, think about it and meditate on it.
Sometimes life’s problems can get so big and so suffocating that it literally can, if we let it, become all we see. The good news is, we get to choose what we want to look at.
“Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you”
Will my friends and I have what it takes to get to the top?
Read part 2 of 3 next week!