Looking for Windhorse: An Invitation 7/31/2005
It’s Sunday night and it seems familiar to be writing to you. Tuesday marked the one-month’s passing of time since I stood on the summit of Denali. The time seems to have passed both slowly and quickly since then. Some days it seems quite unbelievable that all the necessary conditions came together for me to stand that day at 20,300 feet, other days it all seems like a dream, and some days I can begin to get an appreciation for all that I accomplished on that day and the year leading up to it.
I’ve appreciated the many conversations I’ve had since returning about the climb-thanks to all of you wonderful listeners. Each time I tell the story, I have new realizations and reflections on the experience and the resulting life lessons seem to be around every twist and bend, suspended over wide crevasses and deep within my soul. I’m still struggling to give words to them but I’ll share them, as I am able.
In preparation for an interview by a friend for an article he was writing about the climb for a Buddhist newspaper, I reread my journal from the climb. I underlined every reference to Buddhism I made in my daily two page entries (except summit day-it warranted 11 pages) and I was surprised to notice that I made reference almost every day: to my Lojong slogan of the day or to some metaphoric connection I’d made between mountaineering and Buddhist concepts or to how I used Buddhist teachings to get through hard times on the mountain. It was as though climbing Denali was the practical laboratory exam for my yearlong Buddhist course-it let me put the teachings into daily action and I know that it made climbing the mountain easier.
I’m on a non-teaching semester this fall at work. I waited until I got back from the mountain to make plans for this time. In light of my Buddhist path, I realized that I was being called back to the Himalayas: to Nepal and Tibet where I was first exposed to Buddhism. I thought about climbing Cho Oyu-the 6th tallest peak in the world-but it was happening too soon and it was too expensive, then I thought about climbing Ama Dablam-an amazing mixed snow, ice and rock mountain that affords amazing views of Everest, then I thought of climbing Everest next spring…but the large price tag scared me off in the short run…then in a blink of an eye, in the pulse of a heart beat, in a breathe of wind…I knew what I next needed to do.
I’m off to Tibet in September to complete one of the world’s hardest bike rides from Lhasa, Tibet to Kathmandu, Nepal. The 1150-kilometer ride crosses six mountain passes-the lowest of which is 4700 meters and the highest is 5200 meters. For comparison, Denali is 6100 meters high. Along the way, I’ll visit several Buddhist monasteries and I’ll ride to the Everest Base Camp on the North Side of the mountain to see if the mountain is truly calling my name and then complete the longest downhill ride from 5200 meters to 1500 meters in one day. I’m going to take video equipment so I can return to filmmaking once again.
When I was last in Nepal and Tibet in 2002, I fell deeply in love with prayer flags. Prayer flags are flown from high mountain passes, from bridges, from homes, and from stupas. The brightly colored flags have prayers printed on them that are released when the wind blows. I fly them on my house on Wood Street and in my office at work-they reach a deep part of me that is beyond words. I’m calling this next adventure “Looking for Windhorse” because the ride feels like it will be a pilgrimage and it feels like I’m looking for something. Not sure what it is yet.
Windhorse is another name for prayer flag. I have some sense that whatever it is I’m looking for will be found on the high passes beneath the prayer flags that will be flying there…
After a month of indulging my inner couch potato, I begin training again tomorrow using many of the same principles and activities that I used to train for Denali. It was such a joy to have you along on my Denali adventure that I’d like to invite you along for the ride on this one as well… the job description is pretty much the same as before…be willing to receive these e-mails, hit reply on occasion, send wacky training ideas, invite me out for breakfast, come train with me, kick my butt when it needs kicking, etc…or none of the above, or all of the above…anything and everything…no pressure or big expectations-it’s challenge by choice…for the sake of efficiency, I’m going to assume that you want to continue receiving these e-mails-if not, just let me know and I’ll take you off the list-no worries.
Anyone and everyone is welcome to train with me-I’ll happily introduce you to the gym or help you design a program…I’ll be biking and running five times a week and would love company.
As always, thank you for surrounding me with your support and care-it is so appreciated and please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.