My Hike and the “Endless Plain of Harmony”March 28, 2018
“Continually striving for the highs, we will probably find that they elude us, and we will feel compelled to climb to steeper and steeper plateaus. We enjoy the thrill of the highest mountain, but dislike roaming around in the endless valleys below. Instead, we could be seeking out the endless plain of harmony.” Devi, Nischala Joy. ( 2007). The Secret Power of Yoga: A Woman’s Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.
Most years my partner and I take time in January to evaluate our businesses, acknowledging successes and progress and learning from things that didn’t go according to plan. And there are always things that don’t go according to plan. This year we rented a house at the Oregon coast for a week. In between the business stuff we relaxed, practiced yoga, took hikes, and walked on the beach.
Our rental, across the road from the Pacific Ocean, was hugged from behind by a section of the coast range belonging to the National Forest. A nature sandwich. The massive hill behind the house called me. I felt compelled to hike it. What view would await me? What would be on the other side?
The next afternoon, after some time working on my website, I was ready to climb that hill. At first I followed a nicely maintained path on the property. Then I veered up onto a deer trail. The long fronds of the ferns, taller than my 5 feet 3 inches, crisscrossed the path from either side obscuring what little of a path there was. Luna, my 11-year old pooch, and I followed the trail north as it gently angled upward through old growth fir, salal, deer fern, and elderberry. When the path ended, I bushwhacked up the hill. I’d repeatedly find a deer trail, reach a drop off too steep to scale, then backtrack and try a different route.
After an hour I realized we were losing light. I could see the top of the hill. So close, yet at the rate we’d been hiking I knew it would take at least another 30-40 minutes to reach the summit. I really wanted to get to the top. Partly it was the principle. The top was where I was headed and that’s where I wanted to go. Plus I was really curious. I’d hiked in the coastal range a number of times. But I’d never hiked up to get a view. Did the forest continue? Or were there people living up there? I wanted to know.
I knew we weren’t “lost” because I could see the Pacific Ocean with the sun starting to set. But I also knew without a flashlight or a definite route it was foolhardy not to turn around. I started the journey back heading south along the ridge, looking for an obvious place to cut downhill. I followed what appeared to be a horse trail (the horse manure was my clue) for awhile, but that path continued south and I needed to head downhill. I began the bushwhacking process again, harder in the diminishing light. I wasn’t wearing my contacts making the low light even harder to navigate.
At one point I was getting closer to the house, but couldn’t find a place to descend. Each possibility looked too dangerous. I finally found what looked like a deer trail, but I couldn’t really see the path because of the dense growth. I stepped out in faith (or desperation) and quickly realized there was nothing under my feet. I slid a short distance as some friendly trees grabbed me and held me suspended. Luna, not wanting to be left behind, sailed over my shoulder and landed six feet below in the cushion of forest decay. When she looked back up at me I wasn’t sure which of us felt more surprised about our descent. Unharmed, she waited patiently while I used the support of the trees and my best butt sliding technique to make it safely down with only a minor scratch from some blackberries.
I realized even during the hike that this pattern of focusing on an outcome, of assuming the payoff is at the top of the hill resembled a pattern I exhibit in my life and business. Yet every step up the hill I marveled–at the old growth firs with rotted caverns big enough for me to step inside, at the pacific tree frog with skin the color of a green parakeet, at the thrill of being in an ancient forest while hearing the roar of the ocean. I know, I know. It’s about the journey, not the destination. But here I was “destinationing” again.
The next morning I read this passage from by Nischala Joy Devi.
“Continually striving for the highs, we will probably find that they elude us, and we will feel compelled to climb to steeper and steeper plateaus. We enjoy the thrill of the highest mountain, but dislike roaming around in the endless valleys below. Instead, we could be seeking out the endless plain of harmony.
Oh universe, you have such a sense of humor.
- I’m never really lost. True on my hike and true in my life. If I get quiet and listen inward, I find clarity. I find the way.
- Even when there isn’t a clear path, if I pause and take stock of where I am, I can find my next step.
- I don’t have to have the entire journey mapped out. I only need to have a general idea of where I want to go.
- Trust that, even when the landing is a bit rocky, I am supported and will be okay.
- Enjoy the journey. The top of the hill is probably actually similar to where I am right now. And journey, ah the journey. So many joys along the way.
And you? Do you relate to this pattern? Or do you find other patterns messing with your happiness or your success? Coaching can be a great way to help you tease out your patterns and move with clarity toward your goals. If you’re interested in learning more you can set up a free consult here.