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.
First of all, I love Grouse Mountain!
Second of all, this reminds me slightly of an experience I have every summer. At the beach house in Cape Cod, there is a nearby private beach with the steepest dunes you can imagine. Since it’s private and wild, no one will ever build stairs in. Nope. You can to climb up and down, armed with children and beach gear. It’s nearly vertical in its slopes.
I dread it every time, even though it’s only a few minutes of my life. And when you get to the top, the view is exquisite!
Those sand dunes sound challenging, but rewarding when you reach the top. I am glad you visited Grouse Mountain. I loved the view on the way down via the sky ride.
Rudri, sounds like a wonderful adventure and yes you must trust what you can’t see. We can’t control many things so we have to trust that it will work itself out. xoxo
Yes, Ayala. Sage advice. Sometimes when we are in the middle of the process we need to keep our head above the uncertainty and take comfort in knowing we are closer to some kind of resolution.
Rudri, thanks for the inspiration this morning! What a lovely, well-developed post!
Thanks, Luanne. Glad you enjoyed my reflection. I had a long time to mull it over as I climbed the mountain.
On our summer vacation, we also hiked a staircase through the woods and up a mountain with beautiful views. Our grandsons were along, so some of us took an easier climb than others. Our son said our daughter-in-law ran up and down some very steep steps 12 times. She enjoys a good workout (they went the full distance).
My pace was slower because I was always stopping to take pictures. Then I would have to run to catch up. I often found my family waiting once they realized I was no longer in step with them.
I have been writing about learning to be in the present in a couple of my recent posts. I like how you tied it to your hike.
Thanks, Robin. I like the idea of taking pictures as you hiked. It allows you to center on a particular moment during your hike. When you flip through to the pictures at a later date, you can reflect on your feelings as you took the snapshot.
I enjoy hiking and nature most when I proceed at my own pace…that is when nature speaks to me. If I am hurried or lost in the past or the future, the enjoyment is lost for me.
Hikes are so ripe for reflection. You are pushed to consider what is in front of you. In that sense, they are great place for seeking refuge in your own thoughts.
I relate to this line SO much– too much– “only because I spend a large part of my time either glued to the past or galloping toward some question in the future.”
Thanks, Nina. I appreciate your kind words. So glad that the post resonated with you.
Beautiful words Rudri! Truly remarkable how true that is – it’s astounding how scary the unknown is yet we must learn to trust it and depend on it to provide us with results we hope we’ll approve of. I’m a dreamer so the unknown I can easily turn into a movie that continuously plays repeatedly in my mind until I realize I need to zap back into the present and take baby steps to make those dreams a moderate reality. Still a work in progress. 🙂 Hope you enjoyed the tedious process and have a great one Rudri! -Iva
Baby steps are an important part of the process. Thanks for your insight, Iva.
Lovely share, I was going to tweet it but didn’t find share button.
Thanks, Mari for your words. I hope to add a tweet button soon. Good suggestion.