Nature has been for me,
For as long as I remember,
A source of solace, inspiration, adventure and delight;
A home, a teacher, a companion.
I have always believed that the greatest, wisest and best spiritual teacher there is on Earth is the Earth. There is something so incredible about being in the Divine presence of Gaia that you can’t help but be restored and healed. It happens when you drink in the breathtaking beauty of a sunset; when you inhale the healing presence of wise trees; when your heart opens up and expands at the sight and sounds of the Ocean. To be in the presence of Mother Nature is to be blessed. That awe-inspiring power is the closest and most accessible way we have to be embraced by a Divine Godly presence.
Throughout my adventures with Gaia, she has blessed me with many lessons and this story is just one of them. This is my encounter with a Mountain and this is what a Mountain told me. I was in Cape Town for the second time for a friend’s wedding, and very high on my bucket list was to climb up Table Mountain. It was one of my travel regrets that when I visited the gorgeous city of Cape Town the first time round, I took the cable car up the Mountain instead of hiking. I felt something was amiss that I didn’t physically climb up that sacred summit.
So on my second trip, I was ready for it. Now when I say “ready for it” I mean I talked about it a lot, and not “ready for it” like I worked out a lot. As newbies, my friend and I hired two guides for our mountain trek to ensure our safety. When approaching a mountain, it’s always best to do so with reverence and respect. There are tons of stories of how experienced hikers get lost in the misty clouds of Table Mountain and fall into ravines. Mother Nature has a short fuse and is rather unpredictable. So as two city girls, two guides was the best way forward.
The morning of, I was excited and nervous. The weather was great and our guides seemed lovely. They asked about our level of fitness, which I told them was not bad at all, since at that point I was exercising. I realise now I misspoke, it was a cultural mistake to tell two South African men you are quite fit. Clearly Singaporeans and South Africans have very different definitions of FITNESS!
So they decided that we would not go on the easiest trail, they would find an easy/moderate route for us, a trail with beautiful views. Yeah, I’m sure you can see where this story is going. The minute they brought us to the start of the hike, my heart sank. Though there were steps that had been cut into the granite, the steps looked huge, the kind you had to scramble on your knees to get up. That’s how steep they were. Plus looking at it, it was practically a vertical climb and the top was over 1,000 metres high, 1086 metres to be exact!
Anyways within 10 minutes of ascending, my heart started beating as if it would leap out of my chest, my ears were ringing from how loud my heart was pounding, I broke out into a deep sweat, my legs were burning and I needed a break already. I felt defeated and there was no way I was able to get up this mountain. I turned to my guides saying, “I might have exaggerated my fitness level. I didn’t mean to lie, but I don’t think I can make it up.”
That’s when one of them turned to me and said, “Have you heard this famous African proverb? How do you eat an elephant?” I shrugged as I was too winded to speak and was thinking I’m dying here, I don’t have time for your African wisdom dude. “One bite at a time.” he said.
He kindly and encouragingly explained, “Remember all you need to do is take one step at a time. Don’t look up and focus on how far away the top of the mountain is. Just look at your feet and take one step, and then another. That’s how you climb a mountain.”
And you know what, that’s exactly what I did. I kept my eyes focused on my next step only. No matter how tired I was and how I felt I couldn’t, I always had it in me to take one more step. And another and one more and another; and three hours later with many breaks, that’s how I made it to the top. Cue Whitney Houston - Step by Step, Bit by Bit, Stone by Stone, Yeah! Brick by Brick!
That’s what the mountain taught me. In fact, the lesson I learnt that day, carried me through the year. It was like a blessing bestowed from the Mountain. When I returned, I was thrust into a huge project that was complicated and was NO walk in the park. It had so many layers, people to deal with, decisions to make, deadlines to fulfill. That project was a mountain of work! And definitely it felt overwhelming at times, but I would always remember my lesson from the mountain. I only focused on taking just one step at a time, making one decision, dealing with one problem and it was how I slowly, bit by bit, inched my way to the finish line.
That attitude got me through the project in a blessed way. It has now become a life mantra for me and has helped me reach so many goals and milestones. The mountains we climb are not always physical, they are emotional, spiritual, mental, they are made of our dreams, our goals, and our vision. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. It’s how all great adventures start.