In this journey I’ve been shedding a lot of layers, and if there is one thing required for this onion to fully peel, it would be honesty. Brutal and complete honesty, with others, but most importantly with myself and the way I share my story.
I was debating whether to make a blog about this, because it would show my vulnerability and imperfectness in a whole new light. But then I thought, I need to break the patterns that no longer serve me, and what better time than now? I tend to sugar coat things often, and a lot of times I’m not even aware of it. This is my first conscious effort to share a raw experience in this type of space.
Three days ago, three of the girls and I set off to climb the tallest mountain in Bali, Mt Agung, standing 3,142 meters (10,308 ft) above sea level. The view from the top is said to be the most majestic sunrise, accompanied by a feeling of being in heaven, as the clouds seem to be within reach.
Our journey started with an 11pm pick up on Saturday night and beginning the hike at around 1am on Sunday. Most of us were not adequately prepared as we only had running shoes instead of proper trekking shoes. I didn’t realize how much of a big deal this was until we were 20 minutes in and the incline kept getting steeper and steeper. That’s when I started falling behind the group and relying on my bamboo stick and the trees around me much more than I would’ve liked. About an hour into it, the faint thoughts of not finishing this hike started creeping in. I proceeded to question myself about this decision and if I could go the distance. I kept trying to shut the voice up by deepening my breath and focusing on the path directly in front of me. First, it worked for a few minutes. Then, the thoughts became stronger and more realistic and I soon found myself trying to talk my ego out of whatever garbage it was polluting my mind with. I kept running out of breath faster and faster, and I could now feel the exhaustion strongly in my chest. After two hours of playing catch up, with the others and with myself, I had to make a decision. And so I did. And with a breakdown I told the girls I couldn’t do it.
My ego felt so wounded it was physically painful. The thoughts of weakness and failure wouldn’t leave my head. The girls, ever so kindly, tried encouraging me to keep going, promising to stay together and use each other’s forces to push us to the summit. As appealing and generous as that sounded, my pride was bigger than I care to admit. I didn’t want them to feel sorry for me and I didn’t want to keep holding them back. So I forced them to leave me there and keep going. They still had three more hours left of hiking and they were only wasting time trying to convince me to continue. They told me they would make it to the top and keep me in spirit. God, I love these girls!
After they finally left to continue their journey up, I cried my eyes out. Letting out all the pain of my wounded ego. It must have been so awkward for my guide, Ketut, to just stand there and watch me. But I had a feeling he had previous experience in this matter. He touched my knee to comfort me and, in his broken English, said everything was ok. That if I wanted, I could climb up 30 more minutes to the “camping.” He mentioned I could still see the sunrise from there. I had already hiked two hours and felt broken, so I told myself why not go for 30 more minutes and try to make this trip somewhat worth the trouble.
The way up ended up being a little over 45 minutes. I didn’t know we had arrived until Ketut pointed out a small, empty space to rest with just enough room for ourselves and a fire. After I sat down and got over my self-pity, I looked up. The night sky was indescribable. Dare I say, probably the most beautiful I had ever seen it. So clear. So perfect. The placement of the moon above me, the sparkling stars, the clouds at eye level. For a second I questioned if I was allowed to smile and be happy in this moment, since I had failed to reach the top of the mountain. But even if I tried to hide it with anger and frustration, I couldn’t help it. My view was so breathtaking. At that point, everything else faded and it was just me and the universe. Holding each other. I was literally in the clouds. Even if I could’ve taken a picture of it, an image would’ve never been able to capture the feeling. The sense of freedom and pure joy. How blessed was I to be witnessing life in that manner. Then I was overcome with a deep sense of gratitude. My being was just glowing with love for life and the Universe.
Ketut set up a fire for us and kept it going the entire rest of the night. He showed me the translator on his phone and said we could communicate with that. His overwhelmingly kind spirit filled me with so much joy, I couldn’t help but look up to the moon and smile. Then he told me to take a nap and reassured me he would wake me up before sunrise. Guardian angels do exist, and God sent me one in human form that night.
Just before 6am, the sky started lighting up. I could see the shapes of the trees and their various tones of green. The formation of the clouds become more noticeable and the colors scheme of the fiery sky was changing from grays to shades of blue, yellow and orange. The sunrise. So majestic. I was in such awe of that gift my eyes and soul were receiving. For that moment, I again forgot all my pain and emotional struggles to get to that place, and I was just there. It felt like I was seeing for the first time. Observing the universe before me. I couldn’t be anything but grateful for that moment. Right there, half way up that mountain, I learned peace. Everything was perfect.
I need more time in nature! Sometimes we don’t allow ourselves to feel because we don’t think we are worthy. I think we should allow ourselves the time to go through the uncomfortable emotions and reflect. But I also strongly believe we should allow ourselves to be happy, also, without resisting it. To feel the joy when it comes and strive to keep it within us at all times.
I think after that sunrise I really received new vision. The decline was probably much more intense in physical pain than the incline, but the view was so incredibly gorgeous. The colors were so vibrant and the jungle so lush. I just felt so happy to be there and see nature be alive. I had to keep stopping, to rest, but also to take it all in. I just couldn’t get over how in love I was with that moment.
Ketut and I reached the bottom before the others, as our trip was significantly shorter. When the girls made it to me, safe and sound, I was so happy to see them. And so proud that they had reached the summit. They gave me a stone they had picked up at the top of the mountain for me. I will cherish that stone for the rest of my life. It’s a symbol of our bond and our personal struggles, but also triumphs.
Now I realize that it was never about the hike, or even the sunset. It’s about conquering the mind games, obstacles and self-imposed limitations, and becoming self-aware and self-accepting. The moment I stopped resisting was the moment I was able to feel grateful. And the sense of peace and joy that comes from that is unmatchable.