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An Integrated Body-Mind-Spirit Experience . . . or the Zen of Mountain Climbing

by Tricia Chandler Copyright © 1997 Tricia Chandler. All rights reserved. Reprint with permission only (contact the author).

The woods were incredible that morning! Moss clung to the boulders and the pines' branches, which hung low to the ground, still had the bright green of summer, even though it was close to Fall Equinox. There is something magical about woods, with the smells of fall in the air, the moist, crisp atmosphere, and sunlight twinkling through the branches. That sense of magic in the air set the tone for us as we set off to climb the highest peak in Colorado, with a sense of adventure and awe. We were well prepared with water, food and layers of clothing to spend the day hiking the 5-1/2 mile trail up to the summit of Mt. Elbert and back down again.

We hiked through the woods for the first hour, or so, and set the pace for the climb. I realized quickly that I needed to pay attention to my breath, pacing my steps with my breath so as not to tire as quickly. The attention to breathe is a technique I use when I jog for the same reason, but it is also a technique used in Buddhist meditation. In Buddhist meditation the breath is referred to as prana, or life force. When paying attention to the in flow and out flow of breath, every step becomes like a Zen walking meditation. I felt the calm, expansiveness associated with meditation as I continued to climb through the trees and beyond toward the summit. My senses intensified. Smells became stronger, colors were brighter, and sounds, when the incredible silence was broken, were sharper.

The trail was steep and I fell into a meditative trance as I took each step. The alpine meadow above tree line still had small yellow and purple flowers growing amongst the boulders. We stopped periodically to rest as we ascended beyond the tree line, and turned to look at the view behind us. The aspens, turning bright gold, glistened in the sunlight against a growing horizon of mountain peaks and valleys below. The view was breath taking, and I became increasingly aware of how connected I felt to each moment, and to all that surrounded me. The expansive feelings of interconnectedness with all life forms continued with each breath, whether it was labored or eased, throughout the entire climb.

The summit of Mt. Elbert is awesome! My partner and I stood on that summit taking in a 360-degree magnificent view of the surrounding mountain peaks, valleys, lakes and sky! It is difficult to find words that adequately express the feelings I had while looking at the world from that summit. I felt incredibly insignificant compared to the awesome land I was seeing, and at the same time felt completely part of the whole. The vastness of the planet we live on and take for granted takes on a whole new meaning when viewed from a mountaintop. Truly, I fell in love with Tara, our beloved earth, again as I sat on the summit that fine September day.

We humans are so complacent in our daily routines. We tend to forget balance of body, mind and spirit. Hiking up the side of a mountain, I reconnected to what has real value in life. My body received a thorough aerobic work out that day, with the heart pumping, lungs filling to capacity, and my muscles working hard with both the ascent and the descent. My mind stayed busy negotiating the trail and concentrating on a slow steady pace. My emotions were awed with the majesty of the view, and my spirit soared with the connection to life that flows in my veins and throughout all of nature. I made the journey with someone I truly enjoy being with. We stood hand in hand on that mountain summit and breathed in the prana, the universal life force. What could possibly be more valuable than to take time to walk on and reconnect to our earth?

I am tremendously grateful for the opportunity to make such an incredible journey as the one I made to the top of Mt. Elbert. The walk was a sacred journey as I experienced the integrative balance of body-mind-spirit in the now moment. There is tremendous need among all humans (at least those I am familiar with) to slow down, take the time to appreciate where they are, and where they are going. Even in the most hectic atmosphere we can take a few moments to attend to our breath. We can visualize our heart beat moving in time to the heartbeat of the planet and our breath being the breath of life. When we choose to do that then life becomes balanced and we are aware we have discovered the Zen of mountain climbing in every part of life.

Tricia Chandler
E-Mail: tchandler at angelfire dot com
Web: http://www.angelfire.com/co/rainbowmastery/


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