Last week when I was in Colorado, I went on a couple of mountain hikes that were a little (or maybe a lot) out of my comfort zone. I was brought to the present moment with a snap of reality that I could only take it “one step at a time!” This became my mantra for the trip. I couldn’t miss that this is also a great metaphor for life.
As I navigated cliffside boulder fields, gradual and steep inclines, and even endless stairs (everything is on a slope there!!), I had to remember to not look too far ahead, to not look down (or up), to not look behind me. If I did, I might freak myself out!
I got experience how my open-eyed meditation practice supports me in “real life!” If I could keep my soft-eyed meditative gaze, 2-6’ ahead of me, taking in whatever was in my visual field, I could make it through bit by bit, one mindful step at a time.
Did I have to stop and catch my breath? Heck yeah! Many, many times! Did I need to allow my heartrate to come back down to normal? Um, yes! At 6400+ feet above sea level, my heart was pounding even without the added exertion and heat! Did I worry about being a drag to my companions? I did, but I talked myself through it.
Did I feel really proud of myself for getting through stuff I wasn’t at all sure I could navigate (like those boulder fields or the drop-off steps down the side of a cliff)? I did! I don’t always give myself enough credit for how strong, able, persistent, or courageous I am. Especially when it comes to physical acts. I’m comfortable with emotional, mental, and spiritual strength and endurance. But, physical…not so much. I have a ton of stories about who I am and what I can and cannot do. Lots of the time they stop me from pushing myself to my limits.
What helped was this reality guidepost – All you can do is One Step at A Time. Isn’t that what life is, after all? Just a series of single steps woven together? When we face an obstacle we don’t think we can get through, often if we just take that first step, take our time, navigate carefully through, we find ourselves on the other side having surprised ourself at our own strength, flexibility, agility, persistence, courage.
In a very real sense, I was physically exhausted, but in a way that I’m not usually. This was not the physical exhaustion that comes as a byproduct of emotional or mental over-working. This was genuine in the body, tired to the bones, shaking in my core exhaustion – the kind that also says, “You are stronger than you imagined!” The kind that invites a solid, hard night’s sleep!
I return from this trip with a sense of exhilaration, a sense of aliveness, and an awareness that I want to push myself more often now that I know I am more able than I think! I am acutely aware that this idea that “life is for living” resonates deep within me. I need to do things that bring joy, peace, connection, and maybe a little bit of challenge!
How often in life do we find ourselves thinking ahead, planning or worrying, anticipating what is coming, what might happen, or what might be needed? Dwelling on something that’s already happened? Finding ourselves out there with all the thoughts while also trying to be present… How often do we hold those thoughts not only for ourselves, but for all the people in our world (family, friends, clients, employees, the community at large…)? I watched myself do this on the return trip home – at the airport, on the roads, looking for signs, making sure we had all the necessary documentation at the ready, planning, trying to be one step ahead. It’s exhausting! (Listen to We Can Do Hard Things podcast on Overwhelm to hear more about this “ticker tape” that often runs through a person’s head!)
It was so refreshing to spend a few days not doing all of that – just allowing the days to unfold, to see where the spirit moved us to go, to be exquisitely present on a mountaintop, taking it one step at a time. Thankfully this energy still reverberates throughout my whole being – these lessons and insights will carry me back into day-to-day life. My heart is so happy and my soul is ecstatic!
How might this experience guide you? Where can you slow it down to literally one step at a time? Stop jumping too far ahead and simply allow yourself to truly be right here, right now. This moment, this next step – that’s it! Where can you let go of over-thinking, over-planning, over-worrying (especially about things that are beyond your control)?
Can you lean into the truth that often we don’t know what lies around the next corner? Can you lean into the challenge that is before you now the way I leaned into the mountainside to avoid a potentially disastrous slip? And, where and how can you give yourself a chance for a little refresh? Is there a part of you wanting to come back to life?
Life truly is for living, my friend! And, if we take it one wise step at a time, we can carry ourselves forward into places that just might surprise us! We might discover we are stronger, braver, wiser, and more skillful than we ever dreamt.
I invite you to join me and Sandra Sabene for this year’s incredible 5-day Let Your Light Shine! Retreat that begins on September 24th! This is a great chance for you to live into this idea of one step at a time! It’s an opportunity to slow down, to see what calls you, moment by moment. It’s a chance to connect with your heart and inner guidance. It’s a chance to be nourished in so many ways – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually! It’s a chance to take yourself out into nature – to hike the woods, walk the labyrinth, sit by the fire… a chance to dance, sing, play, create, as well as a chance to deeply connect within.
What are you taking away? Please share!!