As we embark on the two week countdown and our final chances for that one last training run, I’ve been thinking lots about mantras.
The last couple of weeks I’ve tried to vary my training routine. We celebrated Memorial Day with what’s now become a talismanic 20 mile hike – the entire West Orange Trail. Years ago we started hiking it in sections starting at each end (see A Walk on the West Orange Trail, West Orange Trail – Starting from the Other End’) but the last few years we’ve simply started at the Apopka trailhead and hiked to Killarney Station. Last year’s erstwhile travel companions, M and S of Everest Base Camp fame, joined us at mile12, with no more incentive than dreaming of treks to come.
By now the West Orange trail has its own rhythm for husband J and me – there’s the area of bizarre churches, the warehouse ruins of the fern industy, the “development” (that is the nastiest bit, involving uphill along a hot busy road surrounded by look alike housing developments), the Buddhist temple, followed by the golf course and memorial gardens (somehow that has always seemed apt to me), and finally, the wooded trek into Winter Garden, Oakland, and Killarney.
I’ve balanced the pleasure of 20 mile hikes with six mile runs in 80 plus degree heat – and literally hundreds of flights of stairs in my office building.
So what does any of this have to do with mantras, you ask? Last year, on the Everest Base Camp Trek, I was forced to confront one of my greatest fears – the incredibly high swinging bridge. And it wasn’t just one. There were a LOT of them. Our guide told me just to keep my eyes on the prayer flags that lined the steel cables atop the flimsy chicken wire sides of the bridges. I did that – and for whatever reason the phrase “God is in the prayer flags” came to mind. I repeated it, sometimes aloud (with the whistling wind no one could hear) while focusing on the flags and M’s white hiking shirt billowing in the breeze as she strode along in front of me. It got me over a lot of bridges.
And on these runs – and many of you know running is not my favorite thing – I’ve kept myself going by finding similar mantras, especially when I’m getting to that point where I’m tired and starting to focus way too much on whether I’ve gone even another tenth of a mile. With a mantra, I can become almost hypnotized by the passing cracks in the pavement, I can slow my breathing down, and those tenths of miles pass by much less knowingly. In fact, yesterday, another runner came toward me from the opposite direction and I was so lost in my present he startled me!
I don’t think these mantras have to be “religious.” Just something that speaks to you and gives an image that you can fall back into in those hard times. As if you’re on a giant fluffy cloud that propels you along effortlessly. I’m picking out my mantras for Stok Kangri.
I cannot imagine crossing that bridge. Kudos to you for facing that fear! I love your posts and, as always, am inspired. Safe travels on your upcoming adventure!
We’ll see what India holds!
Love your thoughts on mantras to get through challenges. J of CT has just returned to running (5k race a few weeks ago) and has signed up for a 1/2 marathon and a training regimen–never done one. I’m thinking that she might be seeing a need of mantras so will refer her to your blog. Will be thinking of you both as you take on Stok Kangri. Wishes for good weather and good climbing.
Hope that J of CT finds her mantra!
So the Himalayas call you again…Yes focusing on the prayer flags is good advice. That and telling yourself you will be off it very quickly. Louise
The Himalayas are a little addictive, I think. Can’t believe we will be on our way in just ten days now. This trek promises no swinging bridges but a lot of river crossings, which might be just as bad.
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I continue to enjoy your blog. Good luck to you and John on your upcoming climb. Safe travels.
Thanks! Stay in touch!