Background on this entry: It was the last day of the trek, we had already technically left the Sagarmatha National Forest and tomorrow would be hiking back to Lukla to get our flight out. We had a great, relaxing day and as I lay in bed that night, looking through the window and up at the moon so many things had dawned upon me. I had had so many realizations and learned so many lessons of who I am and what I can do, but this went deeper. It was a small reminder that it doesn't matter what I am capable of, but that I have a vision and am willing to pursue regardless of what my mind tells me is or is not possible...
Tonight as I lay in bed I was reminded of some thoughts and feelings that concerned me before I embarked upon this trip. I didn't know why I was going on this excursion, I just knew that I must go. This was unlike any other journey I've gone on and in general very unlike me. I follow my Soul, I do what I want, but similarly I am always calculated and know why I am doing anything and everything. This was a foreign concept to me, doing something for no reason other than "just because"... it felt very uncomfortable. What made me even more concerned was that I felt there was in fact a reason for this trip, I just didn't know what yet. I had a strong sense that the meaning behind the trip and its purpose in my life would become apparent at some point. This stressed the hell out of me- I like being in control. I have faith though and knew that all would be well and more imporantly it would be better if I simply submitted to the process.
Well hindsight- as you've already read- this trip has been pivotal for me for so many things that I have learned about myself and what I can do. Upon looking back though I realize something equally as important: maybe the reason for this journey wasn't just to learn all of these lessons about myself, maybe it was to understand that I don't ever need a reason to do what I love, I just need to do it. Stop overthinking and just trust that if I have a vision to just pursue it, trusting that I have the ability to make it happen.
There doesn't always need to be a lesson to be learned... that is just me overthinking, over analysing and my mind (and ego) needing an excuse to hold on to. My need to explain myself- have a justification, a calculation on what needs to be done and how it will benefit me- is very wise and has taken me very far with great success, but it has also limited me from seeing the endlessness of possibilities that are at my fingertips. I've been able to build my own career but haven't quite gone after my true dreams because I couldn't find the explanation for how it would all work. There was still a lingering fear of failure, that I didn't have what it took to do it, or that it wasn't the right opportunity for me.
Maybe the lesson to learn is that I came on this trip with no idea of how I would make it through each day's hike, but I knew where I needed to end up each day, so I put one foot in front of the other and I did it. I had the intention, I had the ability, all I was lacking was the faith in myself that I would get there. So I learned that I can do anything, and now on this night as I lay in my bed dreaming of days past, I have learned to not think of everything that must be done but to just be is and do it.
Maybe it's time to follow my dreams for no other reason than, "just because." Hold my vision not knowing how to get there but trusting that if I put one foot in front of the other, keep my intention at heart every day, then slowly, slowly I will get there.
Sunday brings us a very special day of darkness, not only is it the shortest day of the year but it's also a new moon, which means that even the night will be darker without the beautiful glow of the moon.
Lots of good stuff is being written in the astrological world right now, a great one by Chani Nicholas here, that address the ebb and flow of the human experience in all of this, but what about the Soul?
The Soul feels life more deeply in the darkness. While the body is resting the Soul is rebooting on all of this introverted energy that brings thoughts and emotions deeper.
This presents an invitation to find your own personal expansion in all the darkness. I often invite people to close their eyes in my yoga class as a way to turn off the over-active sensory organs and go deeper into the body and Soul turning on the under-active intuition. This is very symbolic of our lives from Summer- always looking, living, experiencing outward- into a Winter of internal living. In this darkness where there is nothing left to see, what do you feel? Are you happy, truly? Are you in love with life and those around you? What is missing?
As we come into the winter, the time of introspection, it's important to ask these questions but more importantly to observe the answers that come up. Your Soul always answers, you just may not be listening. Are you ready for the answers? Are you ready for the change that you Soul may be asking of you?
The darkness around us does not and should not be representative of the light within us. Yes, we slow down in the winter, but that doesn't mean that our internal gears for growth should stop. While the physical body and the physical world come into rest mode, the internal Soul has the chance to rise and shine. It is a time to read, write, be creative, think more and feel more; these are all the activities of the Soul, connecting you with your inner voice. Take this time, while the light dims around you, to turn on the light within you.
Find power in these shorter, darker days. Where the Spring and Summer are times of expansion and growth amongst the world around you, the Fall and Winter are the perfect opportunity for internal expansion and growth. What do you need to be more you? Ask the questions, listen for the answers, and turn on the light within your own Soul to gently shift away from your own inner darkness.
One final note: it is a most wonderful coincidence is that only four days after this dark transition begins comes the holiday that celebrates the birth of Christ, the symbol of true love. It is as though the universe wants you to remember that despite the lack of physical light, there is never a shortage of Universal Light that showers us all with unconditional Love.
Feel the love, bask in the light
Be the love, live in the light
Share the love, glow with light
Balance isn't something that is gifted to you, or should exist, you must create it and maintain it daily. If balance was natural then there wouldn't be a need to evolve, adjust and grow. The state of balance can be defined as an ever evolving sense of calm and focus. That is to say that there is nothing stagnant about balance and in order to maintain it, you must continuously adjust to the continuously changing present moment.
This requires awareness of Self; checking in on a daily basis, "how's life going for me?" The more frequently you check in and ask this question the more aware you become as to what life should feel like for you. You know what truly makes you feel secure enough to live your life with freedom and comfort, you also know where the boundaries are that will present moments of panic, doubt, anxiety and all of those negative sensations that live at the edges of balance.
I stress the "you" part in all of this because you are entirely different than myself, thus the baselines of balance vary not only every day but also with each individual. When you grasp this you can better understand what your baseline is and how to sustain it despite the opinions and judgments of those around you. My baseline of balance is one where I am doing many things, working hard, playing often. Many people view that as out of balance with too much "doing," but for me it is in all of this "doing" that I feel a calm state of being. If I sit around too long, as is often advised, I find my mind racing and anxiety setting in. Because of the awareness that I have cultivated of myself I know that what others deem best and what feels best are not always one and the same. I always stress when working with clients, regardless of what I or any other teacher/healer tells you to do, nobody knows you better than yourself and it's important to trust the intuition that you build. This is why it is important to build intuition, so that you are always aware of your own greater interests.
That being said though, every weakness can be a strength and conversely every strength can be a weakness. In my heightened state of awareness I know when my physical activity is running me on a treadmill and I am not progressing anywhere, then my strength and happy state has become my weakness, i.e. it may be time for some meditation, a hot bath, a movie, etc. A big example that comes up in my Soul Realignment readings often is Judgment. Judgment, when coming from a place of balance is a service to those around you, helping people (and ourselves) to discern what is right and wrong. When judgment comes from a place of imbalance it quickly turns to criticism, finger-pointing and ultimately a disservice because you are now telling someone who they should be based upon your opinion, not theirs. These examples can be applied to any quality. Again, awareness, discernment and checking in are all the tools that allow you to continuously check yourself back into that "state" of balance.
Balance is a state where you feel the perfect amount of all of your most perfect qualities, an amazing combination of qualities that equates to success. It's like floating on the ocean, you cannot eliminate the waves but you can find a spot where the waves are gentle and manageable. The more aware you are of your "baseline" of balance, the quicker you can adjust yourself when you are out of balance through practices that you know work for you.
Inhale vitality, exhale tranquility, find balance and power in between.
After some three-hours of rolling hills and swift walking we were back at Namche. I am so glad we decided to spend an extra day here (we ended up finishing two days early) because my body is in desperate need of rest and stretching. After more than two weeks of trekking, and the last few days being particularly intense, my body has finally began to feel it. Luckily Namche is a low enough altitude that I can comfortably do yoga without losing breath, especially since I have just descended almost 2,000m.
I feel that same melancholy as yesterday, my pace was slower, gently dragging my feet to move towards our final destination. There is no longer a rush to progress, as there is nowhere left to go besides down. It's almost similar to depression, why bother rushing when there is no longer a place to rush to? Part of me is unwilling to go, saddened by the realization that I must. The other half of me is ready- I've done all I've come here to do, see, think and feel- and now I am ready to go running home with a renewed sense of being.
Just as it felt so liberating to get far away from the bustling world two weeks ago, I am ready to get back to it. Over the last two weeks I passed through my technology hangover into a space of peace and clarity, understanding more deeply the many limitations society experiences as a result of technology. I am now ready to return to it, understanding all that technology empowers an individual to do. As soon as I finish lunch I hold myself back from running to the cafe for a proper hot drink and some time to reconnect with my world that is so far away from me.
There's a new skip in my step, a renewed sense of life: I am ready. I am ready to charge forward, head first, into the future of my work. I am ready to brave the challenges of life just as I braved the challenges of this trip and I'll tell you why: because although on the outside this trip was challenging, requiring strength and stamina of both body and mind, in actuality I was always safe, there was always a next step, a bed, water, food, security, etc. and I was required to draw upon no more than what was already within me, untapped and unacknowledged.
I often thought of The Wizard of Oz on this trip, traveling around the world just to learn that it was all here within me, I just needed to recognize it. Dorothy begged to get away, she needed an answer, escape from the place that she was in; and it was in this far away land that her life changed, she saw how powerful she was, how loved she was, how smart she was. It wasn't that the answers to her prayers came as the journey, but within the journey, threaded through each adventure and experience. All the questions I sought answers for weren't out there, but in here, deep within my Soul. This amazing place was just the catalyst. When I crested the trail to glance down upon Namche earlier today I felt as though I was looking down upon Oz, the place that was the answer to my prayers. I had made it through each day, each challenge successfully with a smile on my face, the only wicked witch was the one in my head that dared to doubt what I could do. Now, with the help of my three dear friends I had made it back to Oz, the place that would mark the end of my journey and return me home.
This trek tapped into a whole new well of effort. Before this trip I was pulling from the same old well desperately hoping for more water, different water, better water. I was frustrated, no longer appreciating the commodity of my well and instead feeling that I didn't have the right tools to mine deeper to get what it was that I truly needed (and still not quite knowing what I truly needed). This trip helped me to break through the floor of the well and into a whole new source for energy, for life. Did I need to go on this trip? Of course not, but it got me to where I needed to go. This trip was the first achievement in my life where my effort, will and power truly amazed me and I plan on carrying the knowledge of this magical well home with me to supercharge my life. Just like Dorothy, I am ready to go home with a whole new perspective, new well of energy to fuel my life with greater power.
After the Cho La we had an easy hike day from Thagnak to Gokyo, this was appreciated as my body was finally starting to feel tired. After Gokyo we would be going up and over the Renjo La ("la" means pass), so I wanted to make sure I didn't push myself in Gokyo. We passed over the glacier that day, which wasn't so much ice as many imagine but rock, sand, gravel. It had the look of the moon: barren, dead land. This contrasted beautifully with the turquoise pools of water that were randomly dispersed. Despite the look of the glacier it is still "alive" and well with ice underneath. Each year when ice melts it causes major rock falls which then requires a new trail to be carved, just another reminder of the devotion and hard work of the people of this area.
Once we reached Gokyo we went on a short but the vast majority of the day was spent resting and rebuilding strength for the long day following. Gokyo is a beautiful town at the base of a magnificent lake with the same insanely-turquoise color that the Caribbean only dreams of. Surrounded by some amazing views that I knew would only get better as the next day we would climb to 5,340m. I was already promised that the best views on the entire trip would be on the Renjo La and I was quite excited. I was even more excited that the steepest part was on the ascent this time, the descent was only moderate (phew!).
There was something very solemn about all of this though, it would be our last great trek before we began the slow decline to end our trip. We were at day 14 of 19 and it would take us four days to get back to Namche and Lukla to leave. To spend 14 days slowly ascending up the valley and over the passes, then drop down so quickly seemed cruel, working up and up with great excitement for all the achievements then so quickly it would all be over. It quite literally felt like a manic crash from an amazing high. This is it, this will be the last time we go up. Though the trip was far from over a part of my heart was sad for I knew the end was near.
We started early this am, at 6, knowing it would take about 3 hours to climb the pass and you want to make sure you climb when the snow/ice is harder and still solid under your feet. From the top of the pass we would make out way down to the first village of Lungden, if we had time and energy we would go to Thame which was another several hours beyond. Most people stop at Lungden but Deven was confident in our speed and ambitions.
It was rough going up but it was absolutely beautiful and as previously mentioned, I'll take a difficult ascent to any descent. The views were, as promised, the best I've seen yet. Everest was clear as day, as well as all the other amazing mountains. As I write this and recall what I see I get flutters throughout my whole body, mixed with slight sadness that I am not there right now. It's amazing how after any challenging experience you only remember the joys, not the pain.
It was an interesting sensation when we began our descent because it dawned on me that this was it, tomorrow we would go to Namche and then from there we would follow our footprints back to Lukla. Not only was this our last night sleeping over 4,000m and the last day hiking over 5,000m, but in general it was our last big day. We spent so much time gaining altitude, going deeper and deeper into the mountains, working harder and harder, then we would quite suddenly drop down to Namche. Last night we were in Gokyo at 4,790m, now we were on top of the pass at 5,340m and were about to drop down to 4,380m tonight and get to 3,820m tomorrow, that's quite drastic!
Part of it felt like bittersweet victory, I had done it, yet doing it also meant that it was over. The first part of the way down the pass we were all very playful and joyful, practically skipping and running down. Then we came into the new valley, beautiful and much quieter than the Khumbu valley. I felt something switch in me- I realized the shear beauty of everything and the world, the energies, life in general and I was in total awe. The next few hours as we moved down the valley, back to the river, through the yak pastures and villages I moved in a very unhurried way, neither fast more slow, and spoke seldom in an effort to take it all in. In knowing that the end was near every step suddenly became precious. From time to time when I hike I have a day where I feel like I could walk forever (my Forrest Gump moment), it is like a high but similarly it is so meditative. That is where I was and as tired as I was, part of me wished I could walk forever and continue to absorb all the glory surrounding me. I often have this experience at the end of a trip, a desperate desire to take in all that is around me, knowing it will all be gone soon. It's a similar sensation to Christmas morning, the of excitement and sadness because after weeks of preparing for this amazing day, once it arrives you know that it will be gone soon.
So I moved slowly, deep in thought, each step with intent and gratitude. Once we reached the tea house I was entirely exhausted as we had done in 8 hours what most groups do over 2 days. Despite the exhaustion, what I felt within me was comparable to nothing I had ever felt before. The joy, gratitude, power and love was otherworldly.
The morning after my tight chest and loss of breath I woke up with the same tightness and fluttering of my heart. I checked my Oxygen, which was 84%, and heart rate was 127. This isn't too far out of line with expectations here, but up until now my oxygen was around 95% and my heart rate is typically close to 70. Even often joked that I was Nepalese at heart, calm, cool and always full of breath. This was not a good start to a day that was promised to be one of the most difficult. We were set to go up and over the Cho La, a 5,420 m (17,782 ft) mountain pass. It did not help that everyone we had encountered who had already gone over the pass in the opposite direction said that it was very challenging and they would not want to have to go down it- which is exactly what we were doing.
I can go up anything, I am strong and with a little patience I will get to the top of most things. Going down is a whole different deal. I do not love steep descents, most especially when the terrain is on loose rock, snow or ice. I had been dreading this day for some time now, so waking up with short breath and heart I felt an extra pang of terror. This is the first day where I genuinely did not know how I was going to do it.
So we started early and I began trying just about every spiritual/mental tactic I have learned over the years to help me get through. A mere 20-yards from the lodge I had to stop to catch my breath, I could feel my optimism quickly draining by the second. I was very quiet, if you know me you know that when I am quiet it means to stay away, give me space. One good thing about being a part of the group is that you can't actually quick. I even imagined myself like the Cowardly Lion, trying to turn and run but then the others grab my tail and pull me back, "no, no, no!!"
We walked up a shirt hill and came to a big open plain, entirely cornered by the mountain ridge... Seriously?! How the hell am I supposed to get over this?! When I think of a mountain pass I think of a parting in the mountains with a gradual walk in between, I don't think of picking the lesser of the massive 18,000+ foot mountains and climbing over it.
Luckily, and somewhat amazingly, as we got closer and closer to the behemoths my mood lifted. Not sure if my many mental tricks were finally working or if I just realized that I might as well laugh at this terrifying situation, but my life came back to me, and with that came my breath. As I like to say, my muchness returned- my joy came through and cracked the shell that had cemented itself over my chest, releasing all the energy back into my body. So as we began our ascent I reconnected with my positive, uplifting self, just enough to lift my ass up that ledge and entertain the guys in the process.
...Unfortunately though I knew I didn't need the support in getting up the mountain. So we got to the top (or what I had initially thought was the top) and I see what lay ahead. I didn't panic, I prayed. I knew somewhere in my possession there was a little angel charm that was given to me before I left. This was the moment, possibly above all other moments of this trip, that I needed this angel. I tore my bag apart- there are a million seams and spots where something this small could slip into infinity; my heart leapt when I found it. Though until now my prayers had been somewhat stoic, I often do this because I know that I (and everyone else) can do anything, so I don't want to make lazy prayers. "Give me strength", "give me lightness of foot not to slip and fall to my death", "give me humor to laugh at myself when I fall", blah blah blah because it clearly wasn't working.
Finally in my moment of desperation I asked for wings to get my down the mountain. I gained my inspiration from the birds flying happily up and down the mountain around me, flaunting their capabilities. So I made my prayer, put my little angel in my chest pocket close to my heart and readied for the journey over the pass and down.
The boys felt at total ease with what we were doing, even the porters who had 100 pounds on their backs and were in sneakers...Cowardly Lion visions returning... We were going up and down in short spits throughout the snowfield. You had to follow the narrow, slick path or you'd run the risk of falling into a crevasse. I was actually happy with my progress, despite my white knuckles. I was getting the sense that I could do it, regardless of my pace, but I think Deven, who was behind me, could feel my tension and lack of confidence. After about 15 minutes he tells me that at the next stop he would give me some lightweight crampons. I initially leapt for joy, then frustration at not knowing of this option to begin with, then my usual determination kicked in and I fought the option in an effort to prove that I could do it. I didn't want to take the easy way out, to cheat. But then I remembered that I suck at receiving assistance, and this was something I was working on this trip. I give, but I won't receive and this is never something to be proud of and something I've become more aware of recently. So I took the offer.
I put the crampons on and suddenly I was moving with the same ease and grace as everyone else. It. Was. Amazing. We came up the the true high point of the pass and I was high on life. I had my wings and felt like I could fly anywhere. Lesson learned: you can't ask and pray if you aren't willing to receive. Once we began the true descent I was so grateful, because it was really steep. If I hadn't had the crampons I would have been entirely paralyzed with fear. I would have made it down the pass but it would have been slow and miserable. You can fight through life tooth and nail or you can open up and receive some of the amazing gifts around you, either way you're living, one is just much easier.
Once we eventually made it down I could have run for days with the energy and sheer joy I had. Prayers are answered only when you believe them worthy of being answered, not because you asked something worthy, every prayer is a worthy prayer. Open yourself up and prepare to be amazing by all there is to receive. My life and career are based upon my spirituality and even I am continuously amazing by things I never thought possible, the common thread in these serendipitous moments is that they come when I am entirely open.
Over the last two days or so we have come into altitudes that puts real pressure on the body in various ways. I typically have to stop a few minutes after starting to hike to catch my breath, not because I am tired but because I actually cannot breath. Albeit uncomfortable, my lungs are strong so typically once I got the momentum going the rest of the trekking could commence with its usual pace. I almost entirely have yoga to thank for my strong lungs and endurance, because when I was younger I had neither. The continuous flow of strong, calm breath that I have built in my practice has evolved my body and life in general in a very healthy way. You underestimate the power of breath until you don't have it, which contrastingly makes you feel weak, exhausted and disempowered.
Not being able to breath has always been an unsettling feeling to me for many reasons and today I hit the breaking point. For reasons unbeknownst to me it seemed like I just could not breath, no matter how many times I stopped to catch my breath. I don't believe it was altitude as the altitude wasn't very different from previous days. Regardless, something wasn't working. The frequency of these breaks began to increase and I got a stitch in my side; then the PTSD of my childhood anxiety and panic attacks set in and everything began to snowball...
When I was a child I would have panic attacks. I always had a very shallow, short breath and though I would run around like any other kid I was somewhat limited by the difficulty in breathing and the resulting cramps. I never won races. Around the age of ten when I began to struggle with my own forms of anxiety and depression everything combined to create some awful sensations. I would get worked up with anxiety and suddenly it was like someone would grab my chest and squeeze, no matter how hard I breathed I got very little air. Similarly, the harder I tried to breathe the more wound up I would get and it would quickly spiral into anxiety attack.
As I grew older my depression and anxiety worsened, I felt as though my heart and lungs were in a very small cage, they ached. I could feel fits coming on because the aching would kick in. As I slowly climbed out of my depressive hole these attacks subsided slightly but my physical performance still suffered... I could never run or hike without having to stop and break frequently, even when I was in great shape. I remember recognizing that my legs were capable of anything, but it was my lungs that stopped me from physical feats.
Eventually around the age of 21 I gained control over the depression & anxiety, the "fits" became more infrequent though my lungs were still weak. I began doing yoga and slowly began liberating my chest from that little cage that had contained it all these years. Through yoga I noticed the physical, emotional and mental manifestations of having a closed off heart and lungs. With my improved practice came heightened awareness of my body and this affliction, I was able to make observations and draw conclusions. Despite improvements there were still poses that I couldn't get into and it bothered me, I knew I was strong enough. I quickly learned that these limitations were the result of having a chest that was far to tight to stretch and expand into the poses. Ugh.
Fast forward about a year, I stumbled into having a Soul Realignment reading. Aside from being one of the most pivotal and amazing things I have ever done for myself, one of the blocks she reviewed was at the 4th chakra (heart and lungs). I don't remember the details, but I do know that within a few months as these energetic blocks lifted, so did the cage around my heart and lungs. I'll never forget the first hike I did without feeling totally winded, it was amazing. I came home and attempted a few of the poses that I was previously limited from and I DID IT!
After this day when I imagined my lungs and heart I would imagine a butterfly, light yet powerful and entirely free.
Nowadays, every so often something painful and intense enough will bring on a similar panic attack, but they jolt me back to the past days of these fits being a regular occurrence. Luckily if I do experience this, I have much greater control over them- thanks to my yoga and Soul Realignment practice- where before I had none. Today, when I couldn't breath I did my best to take my time and focus on getting to the lodge. I was very well aware of what I was experiencing, which gave me the control to make it one step at a time. Once I got into the lodge I collapsed on the bed with headphones, eyes closed listening to my music. Sitting still I opened up and allowed myself to cry, releasing anything that had gotten congested in my system. I slowly came back to life. I found my breath, my calm, my power.
I live with an open heart and lungs full of life.
Chelsea M Latham
When I was a kid my mom would occasionally refer to me as a Reverend, because I had the need to speak so passionately about just about everything. Little did she know that some day I would build a business upon sharing the wisdom that I am so passionate about. So here you go, here are some bits and bobs of thoughts strung together for your enjoyment.