What I have learned from Everest
I have been fascinated by Everest since I saw the TV movie about the 1997 disaster where 8 climbers died. There was a 9th, but mysteriously he woke up, got up, and walked into camp 4 after being out in a storm for something close to 70 hours. Amazingly, he survived. His name is Beck Weathers. Remember that name.
Everest is one of the 7 summits, the highest mountain in every continent and climbers will try to climb each one.They are:
African Plate – Kilimanjaro
Antarctic Plate – Vinson
Australian Plate – Puncak Jaya / Kosciuszko
Eurasian Plate – Mount Everest
North American Plate – Denali
Pacific Plate – Mauna Kea
South American Plate – Aconcagua
Though apparently there are several versions based on what is considered to be the highest. Many of those are more technical climbs than Everest, but I don’t know how many climbers die on those 6 vs Everest.
It is the lack of oxogen on the upper part of Everest that makes it so deadly. Climbers die mainly because they run out of steam, and the possibility of getting altitude sickness which makes thinking clearly almost impossible. That and Everest I think has the most climbers come to climb it, many inexperienced. That is what makes Everest so hazardous, as in deadly. Somewhere c 200 bodied lay frozen near the summit. There is also a phenomenon called summit fever where a climber will get so close to the summit they have to finish. Ah but in my mind, there is the wrong mindset. It should not be about the summit, but about getting down from the summit, the 2nd half of the climb, letting go of that experience and continuing to live, down in the valley below.
Now, I am not a mountain climber, and so I speak not from that kind of experience. But I have learned something from reading about and watching videos about Everest and it has something to do with Beck Weathers and his desire to live, remember me mention him above?
He was left 3 times on the south col, like a football field of snow and ice very near camp 4. He had moved, but when found was not responsive and not breathing. Dr. Weathers writes about dreaming, he was home with his family, all was well, he was warm, safe, and then something woke him, something said “Get Up, the Calvery isn’t comming to get you.” and he did wake up, realize he was still on Everest, and literally got up partcially frozen and walked back into camp 4. OH, he was also suffering from near blindness. He walked into the wind knowing that the wind blew across the camp.
When he was discovered no one expected him to survive the night. They put in in a tent by himself and waited for him to die, but he didn’t, he lived, and with a lot of help from various people, including one daring helicopter piolet, he got off the mountain, and home to his family. he is still alive some 20 years later.
Dr. Ken Kamler has a Ted Talk where he talks about how this happened. AND what he hypothisises is that thought created energy which gave Dr. Weathers the ability to reverese irreversable hypothermia and walk back to camp. A thought created energy!
In life we all have our own Everest, that thing in our lives that has to be done though seems impossibe, and yet must happen in order to live. At the same time it can be that very thing that we have to let go of in order to live. It can be parents, children, marriage, some youth time goals, or bad experiences that are in the past. Sometimes in order to live, we must let go of what is holding us back. We must accept whatever, and move on.
Another of my heroes is Steven Hawking. He was given a diagnosis and a lifespan of 2 years, and some 50 years later he finally died. The truly brilliant thing I think he did was both accept his life, and not accept his life. Trapped, or should I rather say housed, in a body that didn’t work so well was still a mind that was brilliant and alive. Steven Hawking had to accept what limitations he had, but he didn’t fall silent. He found a way and through modern technology he was able to still be himself.
This is the life I think we should all try to live, to accept and yet not accept at the same time. As Beck Weathers did not accept his death, yet he had to accept the ramifications of being partially frozen. It his lectures about his experience he talks about his depression, how mountain climbing relieved it, and how a desire to see his family saved his life, as he somehow woke up and realized the calvary wasn’t coming. The same is true for Steven Hawking, that he accepted his body, yet his mind was allowed to fly.
So what is holding you back? What do you need to accept as a reality, and what can you change, how can you fly in this world of woe, war, pain, suffering. Where is your joy? How can you kindle that joy, create a thought about joy, and get up, start living? Is it that easy?
Some other people I admire who have accepted yet overcome life’s changes:
Helen Keller – blind, deaf, mute who learned how to communicate. She was very smart but at 6 months lost 2 of her 5 senses. With the help of Ann Sullivan Helen learned how to communicate in spite of her “handicaps”, and spent much of her life advocating for the disabled.
Alex Lewis – lost all 4 limbs and lips to a flesh eating bacteria in 2013, still learning how to live. He is still learning how to be independent, being a father and husband, but he is alive.
George Burns – inability to read due to dyslexia, comedian, writer. He was a long time partner, and husband, to Gracie Allen, but actually started his career only after his wife, and his best friend Jack Benny were both dead. He had to let go, and start again at 80. That is when HIS career started. He never gave up what he loved, show business, even when he was a flop.
Temple Grandin – autistic with a passion for cattle. Was encouraged by a teacher to go to University in spite of her autism. Now advocates for people who are on the She had a teacher and family who believed in her. She found her way.
Ludwig van Beethoven – deaf composer who changed music during his lifetime, and still has an impact almost 200 years after his death. He almost gave up when it became apparent that he would be loosing his hearing. His faith in God helped him overcome, and help define music yet to come.
Evelyn Glennie – deaf musician who redefined what musical ability is. She was a child protege on the piano, and then started to loose her haring. She became a percussionist, and had to audition at the Royal Academy of Music twice because she could not see herself not being a musician. She has helped redefine “ability” in music as being beyond “hearing” music, but also feeling music.
Jim Abbot – one handed baseball player (pitcher), gold medalist in the 1988 olympics, LA Dodgers, then New York Yankees. he did not see himself as handicapped, he just had to find a way to play the game he loved.
All these people faced what seemed insurmountable problems, yet somehow managed to do more than exist, they lived. But here is the thing. Your handicap, whatever it is, is real. Yes I believe everyone has a “handicap”, or maybe it is a super power? The thing is to not use whatever as a crutch, an excuse as to why you can’t live the life you must live.
*** I’m too short
*** I’m too tall
*** I can’t think straight because of my ADHD, therefore I can’t . . . . .
*** I can’t because of my bi-polar brain,
*** I can’t this, or that, or whatever.
Everest is the tallest summit, but summiting is 1/2 the journey. In life we all (I hope we all) have those times when everything is perfect, when life is great, and then we have those other times, when the challenges of life seem too much, when we have to come down from the mountain, and live in the valley. I believe that coming down from the summit is the real challenge, finding the strength, the will, the determination. AND also having the wisdom to know when to turn back even if you don’t summit, there can be another climb only if you are still alive. Sometimes letting go is key.
My own ‘Everest’ has been the grief of loosing so many people, and animals, I have loved. The feeling that because those people and animals are gone I somehow have lost that love is actually wrong. I now believe that the love given freely is always there, inside growing in the person who received it. My two young puppies love me and not just for the food I give them, but everything else too. There are still people in my life, and one must nurture relationships. For me the journey down the mountain has also meant learning to lean on me more, knowing that I really have everything I need right there, inside me, I can manage in this life, I can be. Meditation helps with that. Letting go of the need to have people is one of those “summit fever” items I feel I need to really let go of. Embracing me the adult is part of that letting go.
My questions to you are; What do you need to let go of in order to grow? How can you manage better? How can you find your way of living in this world, and not just existing, but living fully. Accept yourself, yes do that, but then find that way beyond, the way you fly in the world, the way you live abundantly, to find your joy. That joy might be teaching, it might be gardening, it might be cooking, cleaning, listening to people, reading, writing, it might be anything. And if for some reason some say you can’t, find a way you can, and be who you are.
Moira Levant July 4th 2018 (revised July 12th 2018)