Something happened today I hadn’t planned. I climbed a Mountain called Mount Zas or Mount Zeus. I hadn’t planned to climb it; I planned to visit it. I took the bus and, before I knew it, found myself plunged into the depths of the mountains. As the bus continued up its winding path, I was silenced both mentally and physically by the magnitude of what lay before me. I engulfed myself in that mental silence; that head space that London can never seem to afford me.
A woman who had been speaking to me in Greek the whole way there as I nodded along, signaled that it was my turn to get off the bus. I was the only departee. As I got off the bus and began walking towards the sign to Mount Zas, I suddenly felt so very small. Literally alone and minute engulfed in a realm of spectacular mountains that stood majestically like royalty. I noticed as I walked the windy roads, that to the right of me was the edge. Being the curious person I am, I decided to peer off and imagine what it was like to fall, before glancing up at the huge mountains surrounding me. It was then that I became aware of my vulnerability; my fragility. How small and minute I was and how, in the grand scheme of things, my life was just one of billions living on this planet.
I felt unsteady; rocked to my core.
Even though I stood on firm ground, I felt unbalanced, unstable as if I could be gone at any moment. Lost in a cloud of mountains.
I had to refocus. The reality was. I am standing on firm ground. I’m walking on a thick, winding road. I wasn’t going to fall and if I did it would have had to have intentionally jumped only to land on a pile of rubble. I was completely safe. Although I enjoyed dabbling with the idea of a sheer drop and death awaiting, I realised that the where the attention flows, the energy goes. I’ve been walking most of my life. I know how to do it, I wasn’t going to fall and the mountain was not suddenly going to crumble because I was on it.
I had an epiphany that this walk was like life. You stay on the path; you stay the course. As I continued to walk, I found myself at the beginning of what looked like a hike. I had not planned to hike, in fact, I had no plans at all. I’d just jumped on a bus and headed to Mount Zas if only to witness it in its glory. I had no expectations.
The Greek man ahead of me greeted me with some cherries before pointing at my shoes, my beautiful sandals from Accessorize, designed for nothing more than beach walking! ‘No…flip flops,’ he said before pointing up at the giant mountain and gesturing the action of walking with his fingers. I got it. ‘A little bit,’ I found myself saying, using the comme ci, comma ca gesture.’ I hadn’t planned to walk up it but now I did!
As I began my walk, I could see a clear wide path laid out for us. It was an easy walk: rubbly and stony but nothing these sandals couldn’t handle. Then the clear path stopped and nothing more was carved out for me to follow just stones, rocks and a giant mountain. This must be the end, I thought, taking a knee. I sat down on a large rock and stared out at the giant mountains surrounding me. Strangely, I no longer had that fear I had on the main road. Although I was completely alone surrounded by the drops, peaks and troughs of the mountains, I felt nothing but gratitude, wonderment as I sat witnessing something that was so much greater than me, so perfectly created and steeped in natural beauty carved by the Creator of all things. I was content with my journey as I sat meditating and soaking up the beauty.
Having been alone for so long, my thoughts were broken by a German couple who passed me in my trance-like state. As they stared out and took photos, I waited for them to turn back and start descending down the mountain so I could return to my solitude. To my surprise, they began walking up the mountain up through the rocks following their own path.
I sat there amazed that no path was laid out and that the route was taken on intuition. After I let them pass, I began to ascend the enormous mountain. One foot in front of the other, through rocks, sharp stones, prickly bushes and dust. After an hour of ascending, I grew tired. I knew my sandals didn’t have what it took to get right to the top. They were pretty but had no grip or protection for the perilous rocks above. I considered walking back down but ahead of me was a dark cave. I could get there in 20mins. I could feel the walk getting harder and harder but I had to continue. The cave was my destination; I kept my sights set on that. My vision.
Upon reaching the cave, I felt a cool breeze emanate from it. Although pitch black and deathly silent, it welcomed me somehow. As I stepped inside, I felt the breeze on my face and an ancient dampness inside. I thought I’d heard silence before but I hadn’t. Until now, I thought silence was the absence of sound but that day I realised that real silence was the total and absolute muting of all life. Senses were acute as my eyes adjusted to total darkness, forcing my pupils to widen. For a moment, I embodied that cave, that solitude, that peace and that sense of oneness before scurrying out of the cave back through the shaft of light to the outside world.
It was here I knew that my journey with this mountain had come to an end. I may be adventurous but there was no way I was making it up to the peak in my Accessorize sandals! I looked out in wonder at the giant mountains before me. It was just me and the mountain goats. Studying them for a period of time, I realised that they were nonplussed about ascending the mountain, getting to the top or achieving great heights. They were simply being. Perfectly content. They moved not like I would have expected them too though; they moved with the agility and confidence as they clambered confidently up and down that mountain stopping every now and then to chew on some prickly bushes.
It was then it dawned on me. I need to be more like those mountain goats. We all do. We can become so busy and so consumed with achieving more and more, we forget what we started out with. We forget to just simply be. We forget to appreciate what we truly are. Alive and well.
In life, I had been in such a rush to get to the mountaintop that I had forgotten to truly take in the view, to taste the air and embody the moment. Now that is Joy. Happiness is not always at the very top but right where we are.
The second epiphany came as I looked at my tremendous journey downhill. I realised that sometimes our lives are not carved or mapped out neatly and that we must find our own way. I asked myself if I had known how perilous this climb would be would I have done it? After all, I’d only planned to ‘go for a walk’. Hell no, I heard myself say. But how many of us would never have attempted this life had we known the challenges and obstacles to come, how many of us would have embarked on journeys and experiences that would have tested us more than we could ever imagine and how many of us would have pursued what we really loved if we had known the hard work, effort and commitment it would have taken us to complete. And what does complete mean anyway? Does it always mean getting to the top or is every journey we take a blessing taken just at the right time? I may not have got to the top of this mountain this time, but I sure was glad that I had invested in those 3.5hours climbing. Why? Because I toned up, I pushed myself, I shaped up, I witnessed, I saw the greatest expressions of beauty in the simplest of things and, this time, this time, I didn’t see not reaching the top as a sign of defeat or failure but my depth of understanding that I knew my journey had come to an end.