Inching Ever Closer

Moving from a persistent state of anger, hate, or pain−essentially a state of fear−into a more readily accessible state of love, joy and peace can be like climbing a sheer forty foot cliff. I have done the latter. And over the last few years, when endeavoring to do the former, the contrast, it turns out, is not so vast as one might think.

In 2007, as part of our trip out west, I offered Adam the option to go white-water rafting or rock climbing somewhere along our stop in Colorado. Without pressing a personal preference, and praying his would match mine, he selected rock climbing. Yes! Score one for Papa.

Adam contemplating "the rock."

Now, I had no idea either how arduous rock climbing could be or how incredibly out of shape I was. So upon my first foray, somewhere around the halfway point, with my head swimming and my hands quivering, I almost caved, which was something we hadn’t planned to do until we got to Carlsbad, NM. At this spot on the cliff there was a shelf upon which I took a forced breather. I was woozy from altitude sickness and my legs were wobbling so intensely that I began thinking it foolish to press on the remaining twenty feet straight up. Our guide/instructor asked if I needed to descend. But I couldn’t imagine having come this far and not scaling to the summit of a mere forty foot rock. After catching my breath and after the trembling had subsided, I girded my loins for the final push, sought out a reasonable path and shinnied my way to the top.

Reaching the summit of this comparatively nanoscopic peak, I was elated. Elated and invigorated! Once at the top I could see all around, reveling in the scenic beauty that would have otherwise remained forever sheltered behind this stone hulk standing staunchly in my way. I felt accomplished, as though a major hurdle had been cleared and a milestone had been reached. I felt great!

Maybe it was just the altitude.  Or, maybe something old and worn had fallen away and something new and life-affirming had been given birth.

Yes, I know, I’m making a lot of a forty foot scramble. But the analogy is powerful. Though painfully won, I was able to clearly see the true value behind climbing beyond my fears, stepping up to a new vista based upon love, wonder and sheer joy. And though it exacted a toll in skinned knees, scraped elbows, and burning lungs, it also imparted a sense of confidence, a sense of beauty and, moreover, a sense of true empowerment. I peaked that cliff from three other angles that morning, and would have stayed all day had I had the option.

So now when the challenge comes,  the challenge to overlook ego’s relentless fearmongering, the challenge to move through ego’s eternal beckoning for me to buy into the false belief in my littleness, my inadequacy, my hopelessness, I remember the climb and find myself more easily able to turn from ego’s pandering mockery and ascend, however shakily, toward the highest heights.

Bear in mind, I could never have done this without a thoughtful, well seasoned guide. On the rock face, his name was Jeff. In life His name is, well, you know who I’m talking about.

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~ by a.b.johnson on 11/18/2009.

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