Recently I transplanted from the hot plains of Texas to the beautiful Roaring Fork Valley in Colorado, and on my daily commute I am shocked by the awe-inspiring view of the mountains that stretch across the valley. Most impressive is the sight of Mount Sopris which stands high above the surrounding landscape and leaves me practically breathless every time I see it. Sometimes I think the people around me don’t really notice the beauty of the landscape, at least they aren’t quite as vocal as I am about just how beautiful the sights are, and this has caused me to pause and think about the mountains and how we as humans experience them.
A particular memory that has been coming to mind is one from June of 2017. I had only recently completed my undergraduate studies and was trekking the “Chopta Trek” in the Himalayas of India. My companions and I completed a 16 kilometer trek and had an optional trek the following day, the Chopta Chandrashila Trek. The Chandrashila Trek began with a winding brick road that zigzagged up the side of the mountain. We passed by other trekkers some guiding donkeys and cows, and maneuvered crowds of people eager to make it to the summit.
After about a half hour the paved trail ended at a temple and we continued upward along a dirt path and often times forging our own paths up. This journey led us up into the clouds where the trail seemed like it would end after every corner. However, the trail kept going.
I remember feeling notably tired (and forgive my frankness I also had to use the restroom pretty desperately) but knowing that the peak was nearby kept me going. I remember reaching the top and feeling sheer ecstasy. A feeling of accomplishment washed over me and I looked down below and took pride in the long journey I had accomplished. We ate our lunches and rested for a half hour before we began our descent.
The journey down was excruciating. My shins were killing me and resisting gravity along the steep inclines was almost more painful than the journey up had been. I remember giving in to the gravity and just running through to the end of the hike because my body no longer could fight against gravity, or so my mind thought. However, we reached the end, and the experience of the journey up and down again resonated within me throughout the following weeks.
I’ve been thinking lately about “mountaintop experiences.” I’ve been thinking about how we as humans experience our emotional highs and the way we process our emotional lows. And I’ve come to discover that for a significant portion of my life I saw my life as highs and then stagnant points with a couple lows sprinkled throughout.
But this isn’t the case. We are constantly in motion! We’re always looking forward to the next summit looking to reach our next goal and we relish in the journey and struggles. We know that while what we’re experiencing may not be pleasant we are moving toward a reward that will make it.
But these mountaintops have to be reflected on. I think as humans we move away too quickly from our emotional highs and without meditating on said experiences we move into the rigorous descent down the mountain unprepared. Then we find ourselves in turmoil and depression and anxiety takes control — at least this is what the situation has looked like for me in the past.
I think of Jesus on the mountaintop with the disciples, when Peter makes the most profound declaration that Jesus is in fact the Messiah, but so quickly after these Peter’s faith turns to doubt and is this not a direct example of a lack of reflection and meditation? I think we would benefit from a state of constant reflection, a state of wondering if we are moving downward from a mountaintop or toward new heights and allow our challenges and struggles to have more meaning in our lives. We can allow our challenges to be our stepping stones on to the next summit, and if we feel that we are stumbling against the pull of gravity, we can release our anxieties and know that eventually our downward momentum will lead us upward again.
I hope that this will allow you a moment to stop and reflect, to look at the beauty around you and realize that while you may not be in the place you want to be, geographically, romantically, financially, spiritually, emotionally, there is beauty in the struggle and you will be a better you when you finally reach the summit.
Art Williams graduated with his piano degree and is currently doing a service year in Colorado.