It’s been a tough yet joyous week. The joy has come in celebrating the achievements of four friends; all of who have worked and trained tirelessly to reach their own personal Everests. One qualified for the world championships in the 70.3 triathlon, two have purchased a new business venture, and one summitted both the literal and the metaphoric Everest. What a week! It moves me so to bear witness to their tenacity, perseverance, determination, joy, and struggle in pushing through obstacles and their delight in their efforts coming to fruition.
All stood atop a “peak” this week and yet all will return to the valley buoyed by the view they saw from above. All still have many more mountains to climb: more races to train for, the steep learning curve of operating a new venture, and the remaining four mountains of the seven. I am reflecting on one of my favourite quotes by Rene Daumel about why people climb even though they must come down again:
We can’t stay on the summit forever
We have to come down again.
So why bother in the first place?
What is above knows what is below,
but what is below does not know
what is above.
We climb, we see.
We see no longer,
but we have seen.
The toughness, fertilized by a bath of perimenopausal hormones, blossomed into full-on despair when I happened across a rather harsh review of my book on the Internet. I am highly sensitive in the best of times, it is both blessing and curse, and I’ve worked to make peace with this aspect of my “wiring.” Tears spill from my eyes at any playing of the national anthem or the Ode to Newfoundland, any YouTube video that tugs at heart strings and at the slightest hint of criticism. All attempts to grow a thicker skin have failed and I’m learned over the years to appreciate, rather than disparage, the gift of that level of sensitivity.
I took the book review very personally. I know I did. It went from a review of the book and how it was written to a review of my actions and values and that, of course, was the tough part. I had to sort through the multiple levels of my reaction and decide what course of action that I might take. In the end, I engaged some with the author of the review pointing out what I thought were errors in some of her assumptions and trying to understand some of her perspectives as I always try to be open to different ways of thinking of things. I felt like my spirit had crashed a bike on a dirt road and was covered in gravel filled oozing road rash.
It in the midst of the hurt, I recalled my study of the Lojong Slogans and #13 “Be grateful to everyone” came to mind. This slogan comes in Part Three: Transformation of Bad Circumstances into the Path of Enlightenment and is a reminder to be grateful for all people and circumstances that give us opportunities to practice. To look at situations like this as invitations to find the cushion, to work with my mind and emotions, to meditate, and to move on beyond my reaction rather than wishing the circumstance never occurred.
As I reflect, I see that I’ve managed to weather such storms of critique in the past and have even turned them into some very humorous material that I use in presentations. Once the hurt passes and the mop up occurs, it becomes another crevasse passed and more tempering for my spirit; bringing strength in the longer view. So I am grateful…for the opportunity to work with mind, for the support and perspectives that friends provided, for the tears that spilled, and the clarity gained…even though in the midst, I wasn’t so sure…
It was a hard week for training but as is often the case, the diffiuclty has steeled my resolve for next week. We’re headed out on a little backpack/trail clearing trip to improve the trail for my class who will follow in a few weeks. We’re hoping the classic 2-4 weather gives us a bit of a break and doesn’t soak us too much but if it does, I’ll be working on being grateful for the chance to (#21) Always maintain the support of a joyful mind.
Looking at Alan’s SPOT tracker, it looks like after 12 hours of climbing, they are pulling into Camp Two for a well-deserved rest! I’ll be eager to hear he and his team are safely through the Khumbu Icefall. Congrats once again to all of my friends on their Everests!
The Warror’s Journey
The opposite of samsara is when all the walls fall down, when the cocoon disappears completely and we are totally open to whatever may happen, with no withdrawing, no centralizing into ourselves. That is what we aspire to, the warrior’s journey. That is what stirs us: leaping, being thrown out of the nest, going through the initation rites, growing up, stepping into something that’s uncertain and unknown.
What do you do when you find yourself anxious because your world is falling apart?How do you react when you’re no measuring up to your image of yourself. Everybody is irritating you because no one is doing what you want, and your whole life is fraught with emotional misery and confusion and conflict? At these times, it helps to remember you’re going through an emotional upheaval because coziness has just been, in some small or large way addressed.
It’s as if the rug has been pulled out from under you. Tuning into that groundless feeling is a way of remembering that basically , you do prefer life and warriorship to death.
Thanks for this…perfect words for this time…
I love Pema Chodron’s words. I guess basically, if we don’t experience the lows then how would we ever recognize and appreciate the highs? Also, sometimes the thoughts and criticisms expressed by others say more about them than the person they are talking about.
Shelagh…so right on both counts! Thanks!