Of course I’d heard it a time or two before. I’d even uttered the age-old message from my own lips in an effort to alleviate some temporary discomfort from a friend or retreat guest. Those faithful words that are so often repeated in moments of adversity as a reminder that hardship ultimately leads to happiness.
Struggle precedes success.
That the most rewarding views are destined to arrive in the moments following the hardest climb.
Yet, for as faithfully as I believed adversity to be a precursor in delivering one to a place of unimaginable triumph, it wasn’t until my third adventure amidst the mighty Himalayas in which the statement rang true – not just in my ears, but within every sweaty, messy, exhausted cell of my being.
All along those mountains held promise. Without even anticipating their influence, Annapurna’s snow-capped giants became a catalyst in the pursuit of all that would set me free and ignite my soul on fire. It had been on that very trail, half a decade earlier, where I first heard the whispers of my beating heart and began to finally trust the all-knowing voice of intuition I’d been stifling quiet for longer than I cared to admit. Fast forward a few years, a divorce, a career change later and I’m still curious as to what exactly it was that made, and continues to make, the Himalayas so powerful in allowing one to shift perspective and see with more clarity.
Hear with more accuracy.
Discern with better judgement.
Maybe it has something to do with the fresh alpine air nourishing every part of a previously deprived body and mind.
Maybe it’s the step-by-step progression forward in the direction of something bigger.
Or the slowing down of life to a more supportive rhythm that, for the first time in a long time, harmonizes with nature.
Perhaps it’s the piping hot plates of home-cooked dal baht.
A more sound sleep under a sky full of stars.
Or the disconnection from technology in encouraging a reconnection with the moment at hand.
Still, I question whether it has something to do with the vast and expansive views.
The sheer enormity of each peak and valley to shrink ones problems down to size.
The purpose that’s delivered with each passing step.
Likely its not one thing but, instead, a seamless combination of everything. And, regardless as to why or how, I can say with conviction that – all of this time later, the Annapurna circuit continues to contain all of the lessons and all of the bounty that it did the very first time we met. Only this venture through the mountains, I bare witness to a transformation not only with and in my own self – but within thirteen other heartbeats walking alongside me as well.
Similar to the manner in which I left a conventional Canadian lifestyle and began travelling the world to share yoga, it was a feeling inside that ultimately led me to co-create the very first Breath of Fresh Air retreat. There’s just something un-ignorable about the magnitude of a experience that, moment after moment, paints goosebumps on skin.
Brings tears to eyes.
Fills every cell with vibrating aliveness.
And because, twice before, the trek so profoundly impacted my own life.
Because time-and-time again it guided me towards an awareness I hadn’t even been seeking.
Because it gifted me every ounce of bliss that I’d previously only known to exist fleetingly with the use of external enhancers.
It was somehow clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that nothing else would satisfy in providing my heart more fulfilment than sharing this elixir of joy with anyone and everyone willing to listen.
And so, the planning began. Assembling just the right team of gifted humans from pieces of my past to cultivate and deliver the same mountain magic to a group of unsuspecting adventurers from eight countries around the world.
They arrived into the land of never ending peace and love.
Together, we embarked on an unforgettable voyage.
And fourteen days later, we found ourselves summiting one of the highest passes in the world with nothing more than deep breaths.
And an unwavering sense of community.
It was never going to be easy, but one some level, it was always going to be worth it. And, just as I had hoped, contained within those moments-turned-memories on the trail were the very same school of life lessons I had been awarded years earlier.
Every step strengthening will.
Every sunrise gifting a new start.
And every uphill climb offering the priceless opportunity for unimaginable growth and healing.
That’s not to say that there were not periods of my walk in which I felt myself weighed down by immense doubt.
Moments when my mind became consumed by unsupportive thoughts.
Times when the physical effort combined with emotional depletion and I found myself collapsing into the arms of a co-host wishing I was somewhere, anywhere else.
But somehow, in being held by the family of people I was, I can sit here in reflection of that impressive feat possessing a degree of strength, belief, and capability far greater than that in which I’d ever known beforehand. And, if I’m being honest, there has yet to be a time in my life when day-in-and-day-out I awake to look in the mirror and feel such admiration for the woman staring back at me. Unconditional self-love and acceptance; as if the trail somehow walked me back home to myself.
I suppose it was the obvious evolution of those around me that fed and fuelled my own metamorphosis over the course of those two weeks on retreat.
Witnessing each person soften into the simplicity of mountain life.
Watching them cultivate and perfect tools that will surely propel them ahead in every aspect of their lives going forward.
And, ultimately, the deep-seated knowing that those angels have now returned home to their previous existences with a newfound sense of appreciation for what they had all along.
It has, and always will be, the key to unlocking every ounce of happiness one has ever dreamt possible.
For me, lessons from the trail continue to present themselves in the most unsuspecting of occasions following my departure from Nepal weeks ago. I’ve come to understand through experience that the most valuable teachings in life tend to work that way. Family, as I knew it, has a vastly different definition than it did in the days before the retreat. And, even now as I reminisce about the tribe of genuine heartbeats I have supporting me, I feel such overwhelming gratitude that warm tears overflow from my eyes and roll down each cheek. Struggle and limitation no longer hold the same meaning they used to. And, what a powerful realization that is to arrive on the other side and relish in the notion that the bar has been raised for all that you once deemed yourself capable of. But, I suppose more than anything, the most profound gift I’ve received from the mountains is that of letting go and surrender. For, in fourteen days, Annapurna single-handedly redirected the course of life as I knew it.
Birthing an inspiring new business model.
Cultivating unshakable personal belief.
Deepening partnerships with a talented network of humans.
And gifting me, once again, every ounce of freedom and fulfilment I didn’t even know I was searching for when I stepped into those Salomon’s at the beginning of October.
Want to experience the magic for yourself? Visit Breath of Fresh Air for more information about our upcoming April 2020 adventure retreats in the Himalayas.
You cannot stay on the summit forever, you have to come down again.
So why bother in the first place?
Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above.
One climbs, one sees.
One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen.
There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up.
When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.
– Rene Daumal
*All photos by Expedimage Photography
One thought on “A Breath Of Fresh Air”
You always paint an amazing picture…of life beyond the box..beyond every day life.
Thankyou…and ……love you…breathe deep..love life…love yourself.