Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lessons from Huayna Picchu

Li'fen, Tom, Sara, Laura, Lynn and Unmani
I think the moment that “cracked me open” on my recent trip to Peru was hiking Huayna Picchu. It took me right out to the edge (literally and figuratively) of what I thought I was capable of and forced me to dig deep within myself to find the courage and strength to keep going despite my extreme fear of heights.

While I am extremely grateful to all of the people who climbed Huayna Picchu with me and encouraged me, this was still an intensely personal struggle. There were points where I was so scared I cried (more accurately – sobbed), other points where I crawled on hands and knees, and the point at which I knew I couldn’t go any further – after the first plateau just before the final steps to the top.

As I sat on the plateau, I thought about why I decided to climb Huayna Picchu in the first place.

It turns out that this hike wasn’t about conquering my fear of heights. It was about facing my fear and saying “here I am.” Sometimes working through your fear can be more powerful than beating it.
The hike wasn’t about pushing myself to go all the way to the top with the rest of the crowd either.  It was about learning to accept my personal best, not comparing myself to others, and being ok with myself wherever I am.  (An extremely difficult lesson, but one I am slowly integrating into my everyday life.)

And once I realized these things, I heard the mountain say to me “It’s ok to hike down now. You’ve done your best today.” So I did, but now I was hiking the same narrow, slippery steps alone – everyone I had hiked with was still at the top – and I suddenly felt safe. I felt a strong connection to Huayna Picchu, and then I heard the mountain again.   

“Trust your place in this world... You are stronger than you think you are...”

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