“Let’s climb it!” I said enthusiastically to Jerzy, looking at the mountain in front of us. We were in Sedona enjoying a couple of days, just the two of us. No alarm clocks, no plans, no schedules. Yeah! No responsibilities for two days and three nights.
We left our home and the rainy weather behind, waking up the next morning to red and orange mountain ridges against a clear blue sky, and the smell of fresh air mixed with wood smoke from the night before. It was delicious.
After a nice cup of coffee and a short conversation with one of the concierges, she recommended a thirty-minute hike right outside our hotel. It was easy to persuade Jerzy since the hike was hardly going to be long or tiring. We learned that we were going to a special place where three Indian tribes once lived peacefully, side by side. Positioned in between two mountains—“male and female”—the area was believed to be a vortex with a special energy and intensity. We wanted to experience that power for ourselves.
The desert in spring is quite a delight if you like the outdoors, with shifting shadows, tiny blossoms and hidden surprises like the bonsai spruce growing in a rock ledge. The sun gently warmed our backs on the way to the top. From time to time our eyes were caught by brilliant color from blooming cacti as we passed other hikers like us. One of them, we learned, was named Robert. He was a regular to the Vortex, coming every day to play the flute and charge his energy. He gave Jerzy and me two red rock heart carvings—mine was soft and rounded and Jerzy’s was sharp and spiky. I noticed dust on his pants and realized his pockets were full of these small rock hearts.
We gazed at the male mountain before us. Well, I didn’t have to tell Jerzy twice – he was already carefully placing his feet in between the rocks, finding sturdy surfaces to pull himself up. I stood there looking up at him as he attacked the mountain and suddenly I called to him, “Jerzy, stop! You don’t have to do that.” I realized that our original idea to climb the mountain was really to claim it, and something was wrong with that approach. It wasn’t dangerous, but we were looking at the mountain as a source of entertainment, something to conquer and then take pictures of our achievement. He looked like Spiderman with his arms and legs spread across the rock face as I shouted for him to come down. Finally he heard me, looked back, and stepped down. I could tell from his face that he’d had the same insight.
Then we saw Robert again, and we watched together as he climbed the mountain with ease and efficiency. Although he seemed older than Jerzy, it took him only a few minutes to reach the top. There was no wasted effort; his feet knew the exact best route. It was obvious it was his mountain as he began to play the flute, weaving his body back and forth as the tunes echoed across the mountains, reaching our ears. It was pure joy.
On the way back down the trail, Jerzy and I talked about the idea of mastery, the concept of claiming one area as your own and making it a part of your life, with depth. We had already picked our mountain, and we were respectful visitors to this desert landscape and the Vortex. We had received a strong message not to mistake climbing for claiming in any area of our life. The knowledge that there would always be another mountain, a distraction from what we really need to do, revealed the real challenge. Our hike was in harmony with our surroundings, like “forest bathing,” and we didn’t need to conquer something that wasn’t ours, just because it was there.
We realized that creating The Happy Body for people, over many decades, was the same as what Robert had done in discovering the exact right route up the mountain, one with no wasted effort through deliberate practice. He said he climbed the mountain every day, and his ritual radiated joy. In the same way, we both practice our exercise routine—if we miss it, we’ll lose our chance for that day. We can do the practice the next day but we can’t turn back time or reclaim the vitality and contentment we could have had.
Have you ever caught yourself in “conquer mode”? Can you clearly define what your mountain is, the area you want to master, where you can go deeper?
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