27 Jun ‘Acclimatising for Life’
I recently read a book about an adventurer, a Scot by the name of Mark Beaumont, who rides from Anchorage in Alaska to Terre del Fuego in Argentina which is a cycle of just over 18,000 miles. What makes an already interesting journey more fascinating and challenging is the fact that he climbs the highest mountains in North and South America as part of his adventure.
Something in the story he told of summiting Denali, the highest peak in North America, that gave me considerable pause for thought, was his description of the ‘process’ which his team followed in the actual summiting – a slow, at times frustrating but absolutely essential way of embarking on such a challenging and unpredictable journey. A ‘process’ necessary to mitigate against the effects of a climber’s greatest foe …. the altitude. This process is ‘acclimatisation’.
Interestingly, Beaumont notes that it is the more experienced climbers who are more likely to succumb to altitude sickness than the less experienced ones. For more experienced climbers, who have longer hours on the mountains, and whose bodies are more used to adjusting to less oxygen, the temptation to rush ahead to higher levels is both real and life-threatening. So, while less experienced climbers suffer far more physically, as they progress to higher altitudes and are literally slowed down by their bodies, seasoned climbers on the other hand, often suffer from huge frustration with having to ‘go slow’.
And I think of how much of this we deal with everyday in our own lives. In the highly performance-driven environment we live in, where it is all about going faster and harder, how great is our need to rush ahead, to be at the next peak or next camp… to be ‘conquering’ and achieving. “I should be higher up the corporate ladder, I should be regarded as more ‘expert’ than I am, I should be more competent, I should be billing greater fees, I should have published in more journals…” Added to this, how easily do we compare ourselves to others who we believe are ‘further ahead’ and how do such thoughts impact on us?
How difficult is it for us, not only to manage our impatience, especially when we feel that we are ‘doing the Work’, but even more so, to accept that we ‘are where we are’. And, that being ‘there’ for a certain period of time is necessary to develop our capacity for the onward journey, in other words, to ‘acclimatise’. Because what happens if we do go too fast? What is our equivalent of altitude sickness, when we take on things before we are ready? Certainly, we can always learn from what we are doing even when we are not quite ready, but how much greater could our receptiveness and learning be if we’ve spent a little bit longer ‘acclimatising’ at our own equivalent of base camp and camps two and three?
Who or what decides the period of ‘acclimatisation’, you may ask? Is it me who says: “I’m ready because I’m doing ‘the Work’..” or is there a greater wisdom or greater ‘knowing’ which deems me to be ready, and opportunities present themselves based on this readiness, rather than based on my burning desire to ‘be ready’?
And how hard is this, when we believe that we are the ones in control, (if that is the philosophy we subscribe to)? How much surrender is required to be fully present in the moment, to say ‘this is where I am’ and to have the belief that while I am in the process of ‘acclimatising’, I will receive what I need, and when I am ready, I will receive what I want, albeit that the ‘want’ may present in a different shape or form from how I originally envisaged it.
So, it is not about giving up on our hope and dreams; on the contrary, it is about inviting greater possibility by being ‘acclimatised’, by being more accepting of and connected to the moment we are in, and approaching the future with more curiosity and openness to the potential for richer experience, learning and connection.
So my questions to myself and to you are:
- How I accepting was I today of where I was and how much did I feel the need to be further along the path?
- How did my inner conversation in this regard impact on my emotions and body?
- How did this conversation impact on my capacity to be fully present in the moment and to the world around me?
- What small thing could I do, whether in thought or action, to develop my capacity to progress with greater patience and presence on the path ahead?