Wa Yo Yogi

Leanne Kitteridge's adventures in Yoga

How Do You Climb A Mountain? August 22, 2011

I climbed  Mt. Fuji in 1992- coming up 20 years now. I remember how hot it was at the beginning station during the day- upwards of 30 degrees Celsius and we waited patiently for the sun to go down. Ideally you climb Mt.Fuji in the chill of the night so you can be at the top to watch the sun rise over the land. As we started our ascent on the slippery volcanic rock I just kept thinking, ” One foot after the other- one step at a time. Don’t go so fast you burn out from the elevation, don’t go so slow you get cold and cramp up- one step at a time.” So step by step we climbed the mountain.  Most climbers had wooden walking sticks with us that had a Japanese flag and some small chimes attached.  The rhythmic sound of bells accompanied all the climbers steps echoing brightly in the utter darkness. I chatted occasionally with those in our group but mostly I just listened and felt- we were walking up the greatest geographical icon in Japan. A mountain whose mere glimpse will often bring tears to Japanese eyes. Yet the path wasn’t particularly scenic it’s mostly black volcanic scree and it was also the middle of the night. I sometimes would look up the mountain to see little lights ahead of us- small headlamps attached to helmets or hats-  like fireflies dancing to the sound of the bells.

I would get tired on some parts or slide and slip on others but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, trying to find a rhythm in the mountain- something I could follow. I wasn’t a yogi in those days- I was a 22 year old straight out of university following my dream. Living in Japan, climbing Mt. Fuji- all these radical new experiences that I was trying to absorb. It was like trying to do your dance to some music you had never heard- clumsy, awkward, and naive. Somewhere about half way up something changed and it was like the mountain and I were suddenly in relationship. The rhythm came and the effort softened and suddenly the dark wasn’t quite so intimidating.

We reached the top at 3:30 am and had to wait until 5 for the sun to rise. It was -3 Celsius at the top. I could barely make out a torii gate as we shoved cans of hot coffee into our pockets to keep warm. At 5 am the sun rose on Fuji, a line of orange to start and then breaking into reds and yellows- so bright it was almost blinding. The torii gate became illuminated in the morning colours and we looked out over the lakes and mountain below us. We had made it- one step at a time.

I thought about this climb a lot lately because I have often thought of the certification process as climbing a mountain. We often start out with a group of friends, a guide and high energy. As the journey continues some friends take different paths, others give up. Our guide stays with us for a certain amount of time and then they too leave us- they have taught us all they can and they point to the path ahead which you now follow on your own. You get tired, you want to quit. At that point you and the mountain have to come into relationship. It’s just the two of you now. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other….and suddenly….without quite believing it’s true- you are at the top.  The sun has risen and you have “upeksha”, the wide sweeping vision like that of an eagle, and what you realize is that the mountain was you all along. You were literally climbing through the layers of yourself. As soon as you realize that, the mountain dissolves and you are left with a new path in front of you….that leads to another mountain. One foot in front of the other…. beyond certification.

On the day that Anusara turned 14 years young, I reached the top of the mountain and passed my certification video. To my friends who started this climb with me- I love you all. To my teacher, Christina Sell, who encouraged me to climb the mountain- thank you for your belief in me. To my teacher, Robin Golt, who let me radio in to home base when the climb got tough- thank you for your wisdom. To my husband and children who put up with this long climb of 6 years- I could never have attempted this without your support. There are no words for all the love I have for you. To my teacher, John Friend, who gave me the best damn map to get up that mountain- thank you and deepest gratitude. You made sure I saw all the highlights and beauty along the way. To my father who’s work ethic never allowed me to give up- I miss you- I know you wouldn’t get this yoga thing but it’s a big deal. To all of you who I have met along the way- thank you for your encouragement . You know who you are.

Love and light~

” It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves”~ Sir Edmund Hillary