Rooms 394-401: Embrace The Adventure Of Life
"Be in love with your life. Every minute of it."
I wouldn’t blame you if you choked on Jack Kerouac’s quote. After all, how can you love every minute of life when your kid is being bullied at school, or you just lost your job, or you’ve had diarrhea for the last three hours?
But, with all fairness to Jack, loving life isn’t about liking every moment of life. It’s accepting that every adventure we take is part of a synchronistic journey toward awareness that will bring us to our purpose in life.
More than that, it’s about being in love with your life—in all its pain and triumph. That’s the adventure we’re looking to take this week and for the rest of our lives.
A little over one year ago, on August 24, 2012, I climbed Mt. Whitney. At 14,505 feet, it is the highest summit in the continental United States. For those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile, it was Rooms 61-100, appropriately called “Climb A Mountain.” As I reported then, I had vertigo on the mountain, which made for one dizzyingly long day.
Once off the mountain, it got even worse. Within weeks, I found out I had Meniere’s Disease in one ear and an acoustic neuroma in the other, all happening at a time when my business decided to self-destruct. I won’t cue the violins and go into the sappy details, but let’s just say it was one of the hardest years of my life. Not Lifetime Channel bad, but bad enough for a guy who has spent most of his life in a happy little bubble.
Of course, struggle is relative. And one man’s bad year is another person’s walk in the park. But this isn’t about comparisons. At one time or another we’ve all climbed our own Mt. Whitney: your kid’s third grade teacher, the lady in front of you in the grocery line, the guy who signs your paychecks. You. Me. All of us.
Fact is, you can’t live in a physical body and escape the occasional slap in the face. There will come the day when we will each be called upon to walk up our own mountain, and to endure that humbling feeling that we can’t take another step, that there’s no end in sight, and that we’ll never get to the top. And there will come that time when all we want out of life is for a helicopter to come in and take us to the top, and then a zip line to whiz us safely back to the bottom.
But that’s not the way climbing a mountain works…or life. We have to earn our way.
Earning our way is the true adventure of life.
Truth is, there is only one way to the top and back, and that’s to keep walking, one step at a time, which for those who choose to climb Mt. Whitney comes out to an estimated 66,000 steps, which is still nothing compared to the steps that some of our every day challenges require.
Fast forward twelve months and millions of steps later and I’m happy to report that my health has dramatically improved. Yes, I still have loud ringing in my ears, but then again, so do 50 other million Americans. My hearing still isn’t great, but at least I don’t have to fake smile my way through conversations anymore.
I know there will still be challenges ahead, but I know how to manage them now. I know how to balance my diet and reduce stress. I have learned how to transcend my illness, while refusing to be defined by it. Mostly, the last year has taught me to be responsible for my own health, which has been a priceless gift. At the same time, I’ve completely reinvented my work into an exciting new chapter in my creative life.
And none of this would have happened if I didn’t face that mountain, both literally and figuratively. I simply would not be living the life I am now.
As far as I was concerned, it was time to celebrate. And what better way than to climb Mt. Whitney again?
So, one year later, on August 23rd, 2013, my birthday, I found myself at 3:30 a.m. heading up the mountain for the second year in a row. Only this time I had my 18 year old son, Jack, at my side, along with a few other friends.
Surprisingly, I found it much harder this year. The air seemed thinner. Each breath seemed more difficult than the previous one. Every step seemed to be a mental and physical challenge. But, there was no vertigo or dizziness this time. And, yes, we did it.
It took 18 hours to make the 22 mile round trip trek, almost three hours longer than last year. And believe me those last three hours were the longest three hours of my life. At one point, we thought we were just 15 minutes from the bottom, when a hiker, coming the other way, told us we had 3 hours left. You would have thought we were going to cry. For all I know, I might have.
At another point, I was so tired that I kept tripping over pebbles the size of a quarter. In one 30 minute period, I must have fallen ten times.
And to think I was worried that my son wouldn’t be able to do the climb. I know he’s 18 years old, a runner and in good shape, but he hadn’t trained at all. On the other hand, I had been doing hikes and runs for the last six months. I was ready. Of course, somebody forgot to tell my body that.
In the end, Jack was the stud who was guiding me across rivers, carrying my trekking poles, and keeping my morale up, while I was the one whose whimpers could be heard echoing across the mountains, “Why in the hell did I do this…for a second time no less?” And to be honest, I had no idea why I was there, regardless of what I told myself.
And that’s the way life often happens. You don’t know why you’re doing the things you’re doing, or facing the challenges you face. Then suddenly it’s over and there comes a moment when you realize what it was all about.
The universe is good that way, as long as we’re listening.
My moment came as we took our final few steps into the Whitney Portal parking lot. My son and I looked at each other, threw down our backpacks and hugged. The 18 hours were now a memory. The look in our eyes said it all. We had accomplished what awhile ago seemed impossible.
Like all great adventures, we had been transformed. We were different people.
We might not have liked being in the middle of it, or at least parts of it, but when the hike was all said and done, we were left with that inner knowingness that if we could conquer this, we could conquer anything.
That is the power of a good adventure.
And it doesn’t matter if it’s a mountain you’re climbing or personal struggles you’re facing, the feeling is the same.
Of course, it’s not easy to reach this point of acceptance. Like all great adventures, there is always that feeling of the unknown, that uneasiness that comes when you don’t know what’s going to happen next, or what’s waiting for you around the bend.
It requires resolve, persistence, courage, trust, and surrender.
But, here’s the bonus. These aren’t just the tools that get you through your obstacles, or to the top of the mountain. These are the tools that turn you into a spiritual warrior. These are the tools that make you conscious and aware.
Adventure isn’t just about crossing something off your bucket list, or enjoying the view from wherever. It’s about revealing our true self. That is the real endorphin rush we’re after.
It’s the same with the individual challenges we face. My past year wasn’t so much about getting healthy, or finding new ways of working, as much as it was about awakening, or finding my next step on the journey toward awareness.
The challenge for this week is simple: embrace the adventure of life. This challenge is two-fold: 1) seek out your own exciting ways to explore the world and 2) cultivate your ability to look at all of your life as an adventure.
And it’s all an adventure.
Going to law school is an adventure. Starting a new business is an adventure. Getting healthy is an adventure. Climbing mountains. Raising kids. Riding rapids. Changing careers. Starting new lives. It’s all the same adventure, dressed up in different clothes.
Our aim is to embrace adventure in all its manifestations. To seek out opportunities to stretch and evolve; to challenge ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually, all while simultaneously treating our every day journey—both the ups and downs—as one long never-ending road toward a more conscious life.
It takes courage to seek out this adventure, wisdom to see it, and a strong heart to follow it. And, of course, all great adventures are made richer when you surround yourself with people who will love and support you along the way, while still allowing you to take each step on your own.
Ultimately, all great adventures must be taken alone, each of us doing what we need to do to get where we were meant to be. Each of us taking our own long walk toward a higher ground, a deeper purpose, and a more fulfilling life.
That’s the adventure we’re on. And all we have to do is accept it.
It’s your life. Love every minute of it.
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