The lessons of Kilimanjaro

In my June 18 post I wrote about Alex and Jane McKeague’s experience with Mount Kilimanjaro. Writing about Kilimanjaro reminded me of another story. The mountain comes with lessons attached, it seems.

A close friend of mine and her husband climbed Kilimanjaro several years ago. She told me, “That climb was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I learned things I’ll never forget.”

She and her husband climbed in the company of a group and a guide, working their way up slowly. As they approached the peak, the challenge became more and more difficult. She kept climbing. It became arduous. Finally, she felt she could not take another step and that she had absolutely nothing left to give. She gave up, exhausted and depleted. She sat down and said to the guide, “I can’t go any further.”

The guide said, “Don’t worry about making it all the way to the top. Can you make it as far as that rock there?”

She looked at the rock, not far ahead. “Well, I guess I can make it that far.” When she reached the rock, she stopped again.

The guide said, “Don’t worry about making it all the way to the top. Can you make it to the next bend?

“Well, I guess I can make it that far.”

That way, one rock, one bend, one step at a time, she made it to the peak. She had encountered what I will call the Kilimanjaro paradox.

To reach a goal, you have to forget about the goal.

When we set goals for ourselves, we set out with enthusiasm, energy and the best of intentions. But during the climb, we find that the ascent becomes more and more difficult. The goal seems too distant, too difficult, and too unattainable. If we focus on the distance still left to go and the many obstacles in our way, it is easy to feel exhausted and depleted. We can feel like we have absolutely nothing left to give.

But if we turn our attention to the one small step that is in front of us, that piece becomes doable. We discover that, while we thought we were tapped out and depleted, there is more to give. There is so much more.

This ancient lesson echoes through time, through all the great faiths, on into Ram Dass and Be Here Now, or Eckhart Tolle and The Power of Now.

My friend now has cancer. This lesson reverberates through the day-to-day realities of her treatments. Thinking long-term is overwhelming, but she takes one step at a time.

“Can I make it through this chemo treatment?  Well, I guess I can make it that far.”

“Can I make it through this MRI? Well, I guess I can make it that far.”

For her, the Kilimanjaro lesson is a daily challenge. But the lesson is there for the rest of us, too. Start out with the peak in mind, but when you’re on your journey, handle just one step at a time. And when you feel exhausted, depleted and like you have nothing more to give, look for the power that is still there. You will discover that there is more, so much more.

No matter what mountain you’re climbing, be here now and look for the power.

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About Arlene Somerton Smith

Writer, laughing thinker, miner of inspirational insights, sports fan, and community volunteer

Posted on June 25, 2010, in good faith and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. thanks Arlene, for this morning’s post. an engaging reminder of the one day at a time/be here now wisdom.
    hugs
    e

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