I still climb. My hands are harder and harder. I confess it is almost like the closest I´ve ever been to a pure meditative state. I have finally really rock climbed for the first time these days… and as I stood there in the rock with a rope holding me, and my brain sending signals, which did not mime my internal desire, I had dissonant thoughts. Though I believed with certainty I was safe, my whole body ignored my thoughts, the adrenalin was released in my body, and I shivered.
It all stood further, and further, the people, the stories, the preoccupation. It all became more and more distant. It almost did no longer belong to you, and you seemed to just not to belong to the world at all. Sometimes, I am back, and I feel both the complete certainty that climbing does not belong to this body, with the certainty that in no other way could I now exist.
I thank the rock. I thank the beautiful Spanish girl who gently tells me the secrets into climbing. She who looks exactly like many of the travelers I have met around the world. She is the embodiment of movement and kindness. She does not get how much it means that she is there. Her gentle words. I think about that. How rarely do we actually know how our words do affect the world around.
And as I climb I am suddenly back to every single mountain I had once been before. What is it about mountains I have often wondered?
I remember the hardest and most difficult mountain I had once climbed. I was then in Ladakh. In the north of India. I had taken every single form of transportation, and all kinds of permits to arrive in a little village, which had been closed to tourists till some months before.
It was a terrifying journey, driving through roads that were always too narrow for two cars to pass at the same time. It always felt like magic when we crossed trucks horning and not having any of us fall down the abyss. It was a ride seeing the dryness of the Himalayas, and the Buddhism represented by monks, stupas ( Buddhist religious constructions), and flags present all over. It was the beginning of this internal journey that I have started when I left my life in the UK.
I knew nothing of mountains before. They stood there. They were part unthinkable world to me. They just existed and were never among within my thoughts.
I think the first time I thanked a mountain was from a plane. I was coming from the wetness of Delhi to Leh in Ladakh. I needed that absence of water. I needed their imposition, I remember getting out of the plane feeling a bit scared of it … and then seeing the chilly air hitting my skin, and the familiar well known Tibetan, Nepalese and Ladakhi faces. My immediate relief when seeing their soothing rosey cheeks with eyes that always smile.
I remember how I took one step at the time (like a meditation in a vipassana retreat) when I climbed the first stupa in Leh. How we all felt some kind of respect towards it. The mountains, the height, the stupas. We, who had just met there, coming from different worlds. I remember clearly walking out and seating in the edge of the mountain and feeling but thankfulness.
I remember seeing the stupas made by people. Stone over stone… representing them being there, and also the interconnection between it all. An opening of path. I remember the beautiful German boy who travelled with me incorporating daily more squatting meditations and building stupas, everytime we were some place more distant.
We arrived to that remote village together. He took me together with a rock climber to climb some mountain almost in Pakistan. We knew nothing of the mountain. Nor did we know the language to be able to understand the local people.
Being in such a distant place, the locals were surprisingly mixed. Some looked Afghanis, others looked like Mongolians, some looked more south Indian… and most of them had never left that small village. It was a clear sign of war, rape, love… all that happens when humans from different groups encounter.
The place looked like true paradise on earth.
It seemed to have been painted by an artist. It was a little oasis in a little plateau between the middle of dry grandiose Himalayan Mountains. To get it there after driving thought the most amazing scenery, we had to climb the last part. There were no roads there.
In fact, they were totally living under a subsistence scheme since probably immemorial times. That village had been, since the partition of India, disputed between the two countries. It had sometimes belonged to Pakistan and other times it belonged to India. The people seemed did not particularly care about it. They were Muslims, and dressed very colourfully.
My friends decided to climb one of the mountains around the village. I offered I had no practice on climbing anything but they thought we could go till I could not go further. We climbed…. and climbed, and climbed while the mountain became meter more meter more corrosive. It started to eventually dismantle in our hands.
We passed an animal cemetery and using my anthropological thinking I thought that was probably the further they did go. My friends, did not care about this piece info, we looked at the carcasses and we kept going.
We had not ropes; we did not belay anyone, nor did we have proper shoes. We had to support each other at times not to fall using my flexibility and their muscles. And those who have been reading these since then must have remembered that that day I had sworn I d never go beyond my limits.
There seeing the village small below us I felt I could be thankful I had lived the life I had lived. I was thankful for it. Yet, I remember thinking that if my life were to finish there I would feel thankful for the life I lived, but if I could make it safe back down I would pay more attention to my own movements and limits.
I don’t know if I have. My soul has screamed many times since then and rather than gently taken care of it…I ran, I moved, I rarely respected the gentleness of existence. That day in the mountain I had decided I would not be convinced by anyone again to go beyond my limits…. I haven´t, but I had maybe not even dared to notice my lack of desire to live any further then, how complacent I was towards death. It was something I should have put more attention to.
It was not an isolated instance. How many times didn’t I put myself in slightly dangerous situations? Those of you who read me probably know it better than me.
There was one lady in the border of the Mekong who saw it all. And I have written about her. Carley, the lady who at 40 left her life and went to Kashmir living the Kashmiri war for 18 years next to the man she loved. Among the many gifts I had in my life she was one. She was that angel I needed the most. She, saw my soul, and yet when I smiled she told me it was time for me to come home. As she put it she recognized her pain in me.
I felt naked. How could she see I was bleeding from inside though I smiled? She repeated it to me several times. And I explained to her I was fine and I had no home to go to. And then I broke my foot. And she wrote me telling me she was happy it would make me stay still. Finally, once, still.
One of the people I most love in this world, my friend Maciek, who is a Polish yogi wrote me an email today. He talked of dance. He knew how much I loved dancing. And he after years and years being a yogi has started to discover ballroom dance.
He started his email telling me dance was now for him like climbing it was for me.
I had, for coincidence, gone dancing yesterday. I used to love dancing. And I wanted to tell him that dancing should not feel like climbing.
I danced and I danced and I danced last night. And though I loved it, it was in a sense for me like climbing… I was just connecting me with myself. I changed partners every song. I learned new movements; I modified myself but only temporarily till the next song. Then I was free to adapt myself to someone else.
Then there was one man who danced with me. He really danced with me. Though we did not talk about it, we knew fairly well we were dancing.
That is when I decided to go home. Because, I am only open yet for climbing. I am, though, I do not like admitting so closed…. I climb because I can trust people to be there supporting me from afar… if they drop me I ll die. And somehow I have no problem with death.
What I still need the most is to find this internal home. The one Carley told me I needed to process here were I came from. And while I climb I start again to encounter who is that person who needs a home. As the people become further and further down the rock, I start to reencounter my breath, my movement, my mind is more still, I trust them not to drop me down. Once I do encounter the gentleness necessary, with the time it might take, then maybe I could start dancing again….