I've been back from Tanzania for a week now. Friends, family, co-workers-- everyone has been asking what it was like to climb the mountain. I'm still not sure how to answer. It was fun. I shared so many new experiences with an amazing group of people, and we laughed throughout the whole experience. It was beautiful. I witnessed views that no photo could possibly capture. It was challenging. We got sick. It rained every day. I come home blistered, coughing, bruised and burned.... When people ask me how it was, I have to be honest. I'm still figuring it out.
I did a yoga-teacher training at the beginning of the year when I had absolutely no intention of becoming a yoga teacher. I had no idea what brought me there. But I believe everything happens for a reason. I believe that God placed me in that training to prepare me for this challenge. The things I learned from yoga put breath at the center of my focus during the entire climb. Every time I felt challenged, I breathed ujjayi breath. It cleared my head and cleaned out my lungs, kind of like a reset button.
I faced the weakest, smallest part of myself on that mountain. I wanted to quit on summit day. I was feverish, I was coughing and I was tired. I was worried about my friends. It was cold, wet and endless. I just wanted to stop. I wanted to teleport home to a hot shower and a warm bed. My internal monologue was creating a conversation that could justify quitting.
But my feet kept moving.
The Kilimanjaro guides have a saying: "Pole, pole." It's the reminder to go slowly. The age-old tortoise vs. hare lesson (slow & steady wins the race). In that "pole pole" trance, I just kept moving. The weakest, smallest part of myself was defeated by the best part of me-- the part that perseveres. What a life lesson!
We are capable of so much more than we think. Even though we may want to give up/move on/stand down, there is always more in in the tank to keep going/ to fight/ to stand up. Mind over matter becomes matter over mind. It works hand-in-hand.
So... I wouldn't call climbing Kilimanjaro a vacation, that's for sure. But I will remember it as one of the best experiences of my life.