how to climb Mt. Everest

6 11 2009


I have a friend who is a semi-professional mountain climber. He works here in nyc and flies all over the world climbing mountains. He lives to climb mountains. He works, saves the money and then when he has enough, he’s off on the next adventure. It always includes risking his life because that’s how mountain climbing is. But like any mountain climber will tell you, being afraid of death is no way to live.

I am on the cusp of completing my first week of and it is my own personal Mt. Everest.

Before I began this trek of 50,00 words in 30 days, I asked my friend the climber what are the 3 things a mountain climber needs. Without a moment’s hesitation, he said:

1. the will

2. the right training

3. the right equipment

then he said to me, and when #2 and #3 fail you, #1 saves your life.

i am applying these principles to my month of writing. and here’s what i have found out so far after week 1;

a person’s will is a mysterious thing. It is very complex to say what makes one person dig deep and go forward and another person as soon as the going gets tough, sit down and give up.

we all have our personal thresholds. thresholds can become habitual ways of saying, thinking, and acting out, “i can’t” either with self-awareness or without it.

i have said i can’t for years.

mountain climbers are solitary, internal people much like marathon runners who really know what it is to rely on oneself. much like writers actually.

for those of us writing memoir, we face the interior and slippery landscape of memory and often it is painful. We are trying to render on the page the complexity of people we have had relationships with in a way that resonates with the universal human condition.

for the fiction writer, they face the landscape of imagination and it’s elastic edges of what they can think up out of thin air.

don’t worry if you are a non-writer reading this. writing is just a word used for living life. You could insert any noun really and then the particulars of executing that craft.

the will is a muscle. And like any muscle it needs to be used and then given increasingly difficult tasks and weights to make it grow. it’s the thing inside of us that makes us want to accomplish something no matter how difficult it may be along the way. the will is what takes us there.

How far we get is a matter of training ourselves. I have been going to bed around 10 and getting up at 530 for over a month now. I am at my desk by 545 after i get dressed, make tea, light a candle and incense, and offer my work on behalf of all beings. then i open the blank page.

i do not let myself get up until i reach 2,000 words which on my worst day so far took me close to 5 hours.

i don’t know what has shifted for me. I am not backing down. I am not giving up when the material gets so hard to write that i am drumming on my desk, taking 5 minutes to wash the window behind me, saying things out loud, going over to the bookshelf and making sure every book is pulled neat right up to the edge, i am then right back in the chair word by word moving forward.

when it’s difficult, the mountain climber goes slowly, takes breaks, but keeps putting one foot in front of the other. often his life depends on keeping moving, sticking with it.

for me, will is closely related to wanting things to be better for myself. coming from a buddhist perspective, i don’t believe there is anything to improve in one’s self, but rather i believe that there is a discarding of the concepts and beliefs of who we have been told we are, or who we believe ourselves to be. i am using my will to see who i really am and what i’m really made of.

i don’t want to be someone who did not get out there deeply in my life and do the hard, challenging, i-have-no-idea-how-to-do-this-but-i-want-to kind of things.

i have been secretly and joyfully surprised (although now you know) at the capacity i have inside of me to find my way and do what i want to do. that i am getting up every morning and sitting here alone with some very difficult memories and confusion of why human beings do what they do to each other.

one more thing, the highway that leads to base camp at Mt. Everest? it’s called friendship highway. (i’m serious, it really is).

i have been comforted and cheered on by people this week that i don’t even know and who have made contact with me via twitter. we recognize people making big efforts and we cheer them on because it’s human nature to want to rise to our highest heights.




5 responses

7 11 2009
angela kelsey

Thinking about will, right training, and right equipment: I have put a lot of time and treasure into another course, workshop, degree, teacher, book, notebook, pen, mat, pair of pants, and on and on, all perhaps as an attempt to circumvent the demands of the will, the painful one-step-after-another, alone on my cushion or at my desk. No way around it: only the will will save your life.

10 11 2009
Erin Martineau

Such an inspiration! I’m starting my own journey into meditating, and working not to scoff so hard at my tentative efforts. I think that love has to be part of the equation, otherwise my will is corroded…I will set my alarm and be on the mat at 6 tomorrow, to stretch and awaken and calm my self before I try to be still 🙂

15 11 2009
Becky Sain

Great post! Good luck with the book — I’m sure you’ll climb that mountain.

16 11 2009
Gloria Ives

i like the lower case. dump it on the page and then come back and get the overflow and sweep it away, and then do it again and again till it fits on the page without overflow and is easy to read.

looking forward to reading more 🙂

2 12 2009

perhaps this will help me restart my will muscle, thank you!

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