On a recent vacation to Vancouver, my family and I decided to climb Grouse Grinder, which is dubbed as Mother Nature’s largest stair master, numbering 2,830 steps. The steps spiraled up and the space between each stair required some interesting maneuvering. Midway through the hike, my legs started losing their focus. As I climbed each step, the trees shaded the path ahead. Although I could see what appeared directly in front of me, the path beyond a cluster of steps remained a mystery.
The obvious metaphor glared in my face. Everything about climbing these steps screamed one phrase: “It is all about the process.” I’ve heard these words so many times in different contexts, but artists often gravitate toward this sentence because it helps them deal with the struggle in shaping their work. I am not fond of this statement, but know the strength in believing in the certainty of muddling through the process even though there are no guarantees of success.
As I moved ahead with a deliberate pace, my daughter and husband forged several steps ahead. I did not want to rush to keep up with them because I couldn’t compete with their longer legs and athleticism. I preferred to do it alone at my pace on my own terms without paying attention or comparing how much faster others were moving around me. This forced me to literally step into the present. I paid attention to my breath, moved my body and attempted to still my thoughts so that my focus centered on the step in front of me. Because the incline of the stairs curved steep and each step carried the potential of slipping, the desire to give up became a real possibility. At one juncture of the climb, I sat down, sighed and gathered my thoughts amid all of the jagged rocks, tall trees and dirt. I still couldn’t see what kind of path fell ahead and looking behind me, the ground I just climbed became shaded too. All that existed was what was contained in that present moment.
The truth? It felt uncomfortable. Sinking into the now felt strange and new to me, only because I spend a large part of my time either glued to the past or galloping toward some question in the future. It is a disconcerting to live this way because there is no benefit in trying to think about what can’t be changed in the past or attempting to look into that imaginary magic eight ball to predict what may happen in the future. I realize how counterproductive my own thoughts lends to this constantly jockeying back and forth from one distracted thought to the next. This is a truth about my own personality that I am trying to change, but I suspect I default back to what I know because actually inhaling the present might lead to a place I might not be ready to embrace.
In the very instant, sitting in the middle of everything, I felt the magic of inhaling the present knowing that is the only moment that I have firmly in my grasp. Seconds that occurred before or ones that happen in the future fall away when you realize the absolute urgency to live in the vessel of the present moment.
When I rounded the final set of steps to the top, one epiphany hit me.
I must trust what I cannot see.