A couple of weeks ago my boyfriend and I decided we were going to climb Mt. Mitchell. It sounded like a great idea but we both had no clue what we were about to get ourselves into. We started at the Black Mountain campground, about an hour outside of Asheville. It took us 30 minutes to find the trail head as the campground was closed and all the signs covered (do NOT do this off season). We started out in great spirits, high energy, prepared and ready to tackle 5.7 miles up 3600 feet elevation climb to the summit and back.
We started out strong, fast, excited. We stopped to take pictures. We greeted a group of hikers. The sun was shining. What a beautiful day for a hike!
An hour into it I started to wonder who’s idea this was. Oh wait, it was mine.
The second hour, I started pondering on why someone would want to do this. I mean, I’m active, I run, I hike, I’m in good health. Why not? But really, this was HARD. By the third hour of unrelenting uphill climb through the ever changing vegetation and climate, in the middle of thick, lonely, never ending woods, up there in the “no going back” land, on a hike that gave the word “commitment” a whole new meaning, up there I had my answer.
I was doing it to challenge myself. To see what I could do. To show myself what I was made of. So next time I had doubts about accomplishing anything I could say to myself “Dude, you did Mt. Mitchell!” It’s funny, the life lessons you learn on a hike like that.
I came out inspired and I finally have a moment to share my inspiration with you. Here’s what I learned:
1. Commitment is everything – Once you fully commit to doing something, your EGO will not let you quit. Hey, the EGO is good for something! Also, announcing your intentions and plans to the world and significant others will help you not give up. Everything you want to accomplish is like climbing a mountain – you have to commit to it.
2. Be prepared – Physically, mentally, emotionally. I don’t think I would have made it 6 hours and 9 minutes, 11.4 miles up and down a mountain if I didn’t have the following: an awesome companion, love for nature, information about the trail, hiking pole for support, layers of warm, breathable, non-cotton clothing, humor, a spirit of adventure, a hat, gloves, hiking socks, water, snacks…Details matter. Don’t underestimate preparation, it can make the difference between succeeding and failing.
3. No giving up – Tell yourself there is no going back. Someone once said that it is right after the moment you want to give up that the miracle happens. Remind yourself why you set your goal, what is your motivation, what drives you. Inspire yourself every moment of the journey and don’t let negativity creep in. On the trail, I was hot, I was freezing, I was sweaty, tired, irritated with slippery leaves, wobbly rocks and pesky roots, scared by sudden snow falling and loud wind blowing. I didn’t let that get me down. I kept on going.
4. Visualize – Imagine what it will be like when you reach your goal. When you get to the summit (so to speak). What will it feel like? My experience was somewhere between wanting to throw up and crying. But I also felt exhilarated, accomplished, proud, humbled, changed. Visualize what it will look like once you achieve your goal, how it will change you and what it will mean for future endeavors.
5. Work hard – Accomplishing anything is hard work. Prepare yourself for it. Be patient. Know that hard work will pay off in the end. It will be unpleasant and uncomfortable at times. You can do it though. You are ready. You are committed. You can do the work. Stop with the laziness, excuses, procrastination. Just do it. Sacrifice short-term pleasures for long-term achievements.
You are ready.
It’s January 3rd! A good day for change. But January 1st was better. I have always been fascinated by what motivates people to change or even make a commitment to change which sometimes is the hardest step. So here’s an interesting concept: The New Year’s resolution. “A New Year resolution is a commitment that an individual makes to a personal goal, project, or the reforming of a habit. This lifestyle change is generally interpreted as advantageous. A New Years Resolution is generally a goal someone sets out to accomplish in the coming year. Some examples include resolutions to donate to the poor more often, to become more assertive, or to become more environmentally responsible (thank you wikipedia!).
On January 1st we all pledge to work on being thinner, prettier, richer, more accomplished, wiser, more popular, funner etc. Whether we accomplish this or not it doesn’t really matter. What matters is our commitment.
What if everyday was New Year’s day? Who said we need 12 months to make a change? Why is it so easy to commit this time of year? Do you remember last year’s resolution? Did you accomplish it? How long did you work on it before you quit? Is someone holding you accountable?
What if there was a rule about the New Year’s resolution being 100% something you REALLY want compared to something you think you SHOULD want? What would it be? Can we tell the difference anymore?
Last night I went to my first class of Ashtanga yoga, which consists of 6 series of poses that you memorize and practice in a breath-guided flow, at your own pace. Apparently most people practice just the primary series. Second and third are advanced and mostly for instructors…and the other three? Well, a wise man once said that after you have completed the third series, if you have any Ego left you can pursue the rest. Lesson: Ashtanga is an Ego killer, which officially makes it my new favorite thing. OK, great, good for you Elvi, but what does this have to do with driving, you might ask. Well, it turns out everything has to do with everything. And just as driving is much like life, Ashtanga yoga is also a lot like driving…and life.
For one, they are both new and scary to me. Except that the mat is much kinder than the road. But you are on your own. You can’t really have a teacher. You have an instructor. Just like in driving school. To guide you. But ultimately you have to teach yourself. Whether he is guiding you through Parivrta Parsvakonasana – cross bend over knee (which by the way hurts like hell), or guiding you through rush hour on Independence boulevard (which can be similarly hellacious), you are the one telling your body and mind to do what needs to be done. In the moment. You trust your instructor but ultimately you have to trust yourself. Secondly, Ashtanga is messy, you don’t really know what you’re doing. You have to rely on your memory and the present moment at the same time. You make mistakes and you laugh it off. You mess up the sequence but eventually you find that the world is still in one piece. And so are you.
You look over to your neighbor and realize they are going much faster but you learn that you don’t have to.
Thirdly, you need to practice. Practice. Practice. And eventually, you don’t really have to think about it, you just do it. And that’s when the practice becomes meditation. And that is ultimately what I want to accomplish in both driving and yoga. You know, get in the zone. Be in the zone. Which is very different from zoning out. Because, meditation is a lot more like falling awake.
You should have seen me. Me trying to do the half lotus forward fold was as funny as me getting on the oncoming turning lane, (wrong side honey!). Wish me luck.
In Ashtanga you finish your series with a chant. But I think it is perfect to start any driving excursions. It translates:
May prosperity be glorified –
may rulers, (administrators) rule the world with law and justice
may divinity and erudition be protected
May all beings be happy and prosperous.