Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in South East Asia, specifically located on the island of Borneo. It was climbing this mountain that made me appreciate living in the very present, where the focus is just about the placing of one foot in front of the other and taking the next breath. It all sounds very dramatic, but the environment forces you to slow down and just be in this moment. Everything else pretty much fades into the background.
I’m sure many of us can think of a time when we have experienced something like this, but at this altitude the experience is heightened as our basic breathing becomes laboured, making it harder to walk and even think. In some cases, people are affected so much they vomit and become rather ill, the only way to overcome this is to return to a lower altitude.
Focussing on a mantra can get you through the toughest of tasks
It’s only now that I look back that I realise this particular climb was a form of meditation. It was pretty much just me, my legs, breath and mind. The last stretch to the summit wasn’t an easy climb but I stayed focussed, and I kept repeating the positive mantra of ‘I can do this’, which at the time was only slightly stronger than the ‘This is too hard, I can’t breathe, I feel sick, everyone else has already made the summit and is coming back down!’ That one little phrase and the ability to focus on the present breath is what got me to the top! And what an amazing feeling it was to get there, that incredible sense of achievement and battle against the elements, ok it wasn’t Antarctic, but it was my own battle and I won! I’m still very proud of that moment, and if I’m having a bad day I’ll think of how I got there and that feeling at the end.
Reaching the top doesn’t mean the hard work is complete
Admittedly reaching the top didn’t mean it was over. I’ve always found climbing down a hill or mountain just as hard as going up it, if not harder. In this instance my water bladder sprung a leak, and all the water escaped, leaving only a 330ml can of Diet Coke to get me back down to the bottom, and at altitude fizzy drinks just taste like a thick syrupy liquid, not the best back up drink to have available. When we had the chance to stop off for food I was so dehydrated that I couldn’t eat. My friend who I caught up with on the way down got the brunt of me in the worst ‘hangry’ state I’ve ever been in! Thankfully he had a spare bit of food, water and a sense of humour to share, forever thankful for that.
Being in the present
So, whenever you hear someone talk about meditation, and it conjures up images of people sitting silently in a crossed legged position, try and think about it as a way of being in the present moment of whatever activity you are engaged in. You might find you have been in states of meditation more than you realise. When was the last time you experienced being in the present forgetting about past and future worries or cares?
Special thank you to Anuj and the team at Feedspot who featured me in the Top UK Yoga Blogs!
*First published March 2018