As I walk down to the YMCA guided solely by repetitious knowledge and my pitiful excuse for an iPhone flashlight, the sky begins to unload on me. “Shit” I whisper to no one in particular, and hurry down to the gym. Most morning
s begin for me this way, a 5 am wake up followed by a grueling gym session. Sprinting, Incline workouts, lifting, squats, core, I make my way through an hour long circuit of exercises designed to prepare me for the unforgiving mountains of Nepal.
I suppose this love of the mountains began for me when I was just a toddler,
spending my summers at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains. The obsession slowly grew, and by the time I was a teenager I had scaled several of the highest peaks in the U.S, and skied in both the Himalaya and Greenland. But most of it was just side trips, things I did on family vacations or during the summer. That is, until the summer before eighth grade when I began to plot my most ambitious expedition yet. The idea slowly formed into a reality, which became an itinerary, and before I knew it I was on a 16 week training program to prepare me for a 2 month long trip to the high Himalaya.
For me, there were really two main aspects of preparation: physical, and mental. The physical training was straightforward, mostly lifting, cardio, and core. I needed to prepare my body to be pushed to the the limit for days at a time. I jumped up and down on boxes; both feet, right to left, left
to right. I sacrificed hours of sleep and boxes of cookies. But at the same time I reveled in the toil. I have always been a driven person, and for me, this was the next big goal. Creme de la Creme. The second aspect was mental, which was definitely the more difficult of the two. I have always been a somewhat anxious person, and this trip was a lot of pressure. Expensive, not to mention the opportunity of a lifetime. But 8 weeks out, when I was really feeling the stress, I made a big change. I decided to take up Buddhism. After exchanging my language periods in school for an independent study, I went on a mad search to learn about this new and differ
ent way of life. I immersed myself in reading about the noble truths, eightfold path, and three jewels. I interpreted quotes and watched Ted talks and started meditating twice a day. The more I learned, the more fascinated I became, and I truly believed in the teachings. It was all just so right to me. All of it made perfect sense. I felt so empowered by the notion that happiness can only come from within, because it took some of the pressure off of me from the trip. I didn’t need to summit all of the mountains to be happy. I could gain knowledge and wisdom from doing this, which might lead me to better understanding and therefore happiness, but the labels didn’t matter; Just the experience.