Sometimes, a particular hike calls to me. Last month the mountain spoke.I have passed it hundreds of times on my way to other hikes. I’ve watched it change in the fading sunsets and I’ve seen rainbows arc gracefully over its top. I’d hiked to the top over 15 years ago with friends, and watched it burn during a little over a decade ago in an epic fire. The summit, with its amazing views was like a siren beckoning. I wanted to be up there.
I chose a day and set out early. At 7am it was 40 degrees out, and the sun had not yet peeked over the horizon. The sky was a pale silver, quickly turning to blue, and a few clouds were glowing a blazing pink. It felt like I was driving through heaven at dawn and I couldn’t wait to get on the trail.
The steep path wound upwards through the forest, plateaued for a little while amidst shorter vegetation, then started to ascend once again. Dawn broke over the neighboring ridge and washed the canyon walls with breathtaking rays of light. I stopped to look back. I had climbed a long way in a short time.
As the sun burst over the ridge, the red rocks started to glow and the sky became electric blue. I was tired, winded, and had a long, long way to go, but I was so happy to be there and to be alive. “Thank you, thank you, thank you God, for the glory and majesty all around me!” The prayer erupted unbidden, from my very being.
The path began to ascend even more steeply, now zig-zagging along the mountainside. It narrowed, turned to slippery gravel, and dropped off steeply on one side. My legs were starting to hurt. I was becoming painfully aware that I was out of shape. The summit looked beautiful, but impossibly far away.
There, in the midst of all that beauty and majesty, the “inner committee” began to argue within itself and bombard me with a litany of doubt, fear, and self-criticism.
“What were you thinking Ann! One false step and you’ll slide right off the mountain! There’s no one else on the entire path! No one would find you. You’d freeze up here if you weren’t moving!” “Stop it! I’m not going to fall.” I talked back to the voices. “I’ve been here before. I’m fine.” “Oh really? You’re tired, shaky, and out of breath.” The voices of defeat started to assert themselves. “Well I will go slow then!” I proceeded to climb, nervously taking each step and placing my feet with great caution.
In spite of that, my foot slipped on a loose rock and I started to lose my balance. I caught and steadied myself, feeling completely, uncharacteristically, unnerved. The summit was miles away and seemed to be getting no closer. I felt like an ant trying to reach the top of the Empire state building and didn’t know if I could do it. By this time, my “inner committee” was having a meltdown.
“I can’t do this. I’m too out of shape! I’ll never make it! I should just go back now!” I gulped in air, trying to fill my lungs with oxygen. I wanted to climb and I wanted to quit, all at the same time. I remembered the angels’ advice…
“Heart what do you want?” “I want to go to the summit,” my heart whispered. “OK” I thought.
“Body what do you want?” “I want to climb, to feel strong, healthy, and powerful, and (this really got me) I want you to trust me! I’m in tune with the earth. I’m connected to her. I’m not going to let you fall, if you would just stop over thinking every step! Enjoy the journey. Trust the trail! I’ve got this.”
I heard the collective voice of my trillions of cells and felt an overwhelming love welling from this community of tiny beings that make up my body. I couldn’t believe it! My cells were comforting me, as surely as I try to comfort Mother Earth in my own prayers! I nearly cried, the love was exquisite and intense. “Dear God,” I wondered, “is this what Mother Earth feels when we send her our love?” “Yes,” I heard her reply. “I do.” Wow.
Energized and filled with confidence once again, I caught my breath, and climbed onward, this time present, joyous, and relaxed. I stepped with confidence. I paced myself. I prayed, “Let my every step be a blessing upon this earth!” I saw one heart shaped rock after another on the trail!
The trail reached another plateau. Walking through a ten-year old forest of golden oaks and the charcoal black skeletons of burnt-out trees towering overhead, I could see for miles.
Even more breathtaking vistas awaited at the top. I was all alone with the mountain, on top of my world, towering over red rock cliffs and time worn canyons. Wind whistled through the pines and their needles formed a carpet soft as a down comforter, where I feasted on a picnic lunch and took a nap watching the giant trees swaying overhead. I thanked my heart and my body for loving me enough to give me this experience, rejoicing once again for finding clarity amidst confusion.
So often, the voices in our heads, hearts, and bodies seem to be at war amongst themselves. Nonetheless, we can always drop into our hearts, and connect with our bodies in order to find a deeper truth.
9.5 miles later, and 2300 feet up, then down again, I made it to the summit and back – literally and metaphorically – simply by listening to that truth.
Here are some pointers to help you find clarity when the conflicting voices within leave you lost in confusion…
1. Get Present… first with life and then with yourself
Temporarily cease the chatter. Stop. Breathe slowly and deeply. Look around to focus on the world outside for once instead of the incessant chatter within. Really examine your environment. Examine your hands. Breathe. See if you can temporarily silence your mind and just be with the scene around you.
Once you feel more settled and present, as your heart, “Heart what do you want right now?” Ask your body, “Body what do you want?”
Trust the first answers or impressions that pop in your mind.
2. Separate out the voices
If you still can’t find clarity, write down each conflicting thought. “I want to do this.” “I don’t have time.” “I am afraid.” “What’s wrong with me?”
After you write down each conflicting thought, focus on one at a time. See which ones feel good. Which ones make you happy or relaxed? Those are more likely to be the voices of truth.
If dissenting voices still won’t leave you alone, talk to them. For each negative voice, ask, “Who inside me feels this way? How are you trying to help me?”
Negotiate with the voices that try to dissuade you from your dreams. Imagine they are little people inside of you. Ask them if they’ll take a new job or go into the light. Imagine writing the thought on a balloon and letting go, or use any other visual imagery that symbolizes releasing it to the heavens.
In other words, become the CEO of your “inner committee” treating all members with respect, but being very clear about which voices are allowed to remain.
We all have quite an “inner committee” at times. We have all felt like we are odds within ourselves.
Happily we all have a consciousness in our bodies that knows what to do, and a “hot line to heaven” in our hearts.