Contemplations about Life, Love, & the Pursuit of Meaningful Existence…

Mind Over Mountain


The mountain looms. Ignoring the “I can’ts” lobbing across my mind. Altitude accentuating the agony. Hammering heartbeat. Inferior lungs. Exhaling in a humiliating whoosh. The peak well above my comfort zone. Weighted legs. Stalling. A gulp of metallic water from my canteen. Sun and wind chaffing. A flicker of reverence launching untapped stamina — I’m traversing a portion of the intricate 25,000-mile Inca road system!

Santos, our Inca Shaman darts by. He’s hiking in sandals (!), playing a wooden flute-like instrument. I wonder what he thinks of this out-of-shape gringo gasping for air? He pauses in the distance. Incapable of speaking his native tongue, I ask for a picture in Spanish. He smiles, waving me over.

Later, he leads our group of twelve in a ceremony at the edge of a luminous glacier lake. He distributes symbolic coca leaves and we cling to their divinity as he begins chanting in hushed Quechua. Our Peruvian guide translates:

Release your negativity. Leave it here in the wide embrace of the Andes. Be free of debilitating thoughts. Let them go. They drag you under. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Disappointment, grudges, and bitterness destroy. Know in this moment, you have all you need: the sustaining sun, soothing air, purifying water, guiding stars, protective mountains, and exalting skies. The moon’s pull to keep you centered, the soil to nourish. Mother Earth always provides, ready with healing hand. Use this restorative energy. Envision family, friends, those suffering you’ve never met. Lift them up with your compassion. We have nothing more valuable to give the world — or each other.

We clutch hands, stitching our circle tighter. Snow loses its grip on a nearby cliff, triggering a small avalanche amidst our tranquility. A Condor swoops gracefully.Β Both men intensely engaged in their sacred ritual. Who am I to be standing in such a surreal natural sanctuary? I close moist eyes and picture the Southern Cross dancing in last night’s sky, wondering how I’ll ever translate such marvel to another. I tuck the memory into a deep pocket of my brain, hoping I’ll find a way.

Back home, I study our photographs, trying to recapture the rush of accomplishment, to harness the spirited Inca drive. I mean — who possesses such moxy as to erect cities and trails upon alarmingly precarious territory? I observe people all around me facing everyday mountains, trouncing obstacles with unparalleled grit, and I ask:

What’s the magic ingredient that propels an individual to exceed mediocrity — striving for excellence in every pursuit?

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25 thoughts on “Mind Over Mountain

  1. …you ask how you will ever translate such marvel to another?…with this wonderful reading you just did, ty for this.

    • So happy it translated in writing as my verbal attempts to describe to others has left them wondering what exactly we did with the coca leaves! πŸ˜‰ Ha! Thank you for your kindness!

  2. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words on said:

    I agree with whocouldknowthen…..
    your thoughts of remembering carried us along the trails…
    catching our breath as you stand in awe of your surreal surroundings….
    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful journey with us….that is my number1 bucket list destination
    (Beautiful view and I like the hats!)
    Take Care

    • And I thank YOU for joining me on the journey. All I can say is: GO, GO, GO! I have ventured to many places around this beautiful planet but have never had my breath taken away as many times as I did in this amazing locale!! Happy Travels!!

  3. I’d like to think the magic ingredient is faith in something greater than ourselves and/ or love. Like the love of a parent for a child that can propel one to greatness. Or sometimes the inspiration from poets and writers. πŸ™‚ Keep on reminding us to touch the greatness. Thanks Shauna.

    • Thank you for always contributing such interesting perspectives, Brad. I agree with the love angle. When a person has a deeply vested interest — a sense of ownership (as in, everything they do makes a difference), whether it be family, community, the workplace, or just the pursuit of some crazy passion — this PRIDE elevates them to extend their best effort each and every time…

  4. Shauna, this is so inspiring!

  5. Wonderfully written and so inspiring. I don’t have the answer to your question. All I can say is we all have that ability within us. We just need to let go of fear and inertia to unleash the magic within.

    • I so appreciate YOUR thoughts! It’s scary how debilitating fear can be — and yet, every single time I push past it the euphoria on the other side is heavenly…I think it’s a bit like forming a habit. Each time you do something you thought you never could, the voice of doubt loses a little more power.

  6. i have missed you! what an inspiring post!!

    • I’ve missed you too, Dear Liz! Hope your packing/moving preparation is going smoothly! Will be nice to have you back in the states. Can’t wait to hear all about it. πŸ™‚

  7. Dear Shauna,
    Beautifully written! In my case, it will be peer pressure, one pulling and one pushing!

    • Thank you, Naomi! Ha! Indeed, much of my incentive was peer (husband) pressure as well! I’m so excited to hear about your Peruvian journey, Amazon adventure, etc. I’m emailing Erick right now to tell him to give you the best cooking class ever with extra Pisco Sours served!! πŸ˜‰

  8. beautiful words, beautiful photograph, beautiful world – I’m not sure what could be more inspiring….

  9. What a splendid piece about your soaring journey, LL! The stunning photo of human and geologic wonders, your eloquent, warmly human writing, your bountiful humility, and, always, generous spirit all leave me tingling. Love the sacred ceremony with those lovely sentiments! I am pondering your challenging question, but for starters I am inspired to excel by others’ greatness, greatness in who they are or what they do. For instance, you and your writing. Shine on, dear friend. Xoxo

    • YOU, Dear Chloe, are the reason I’m still here pecking away at my little keys! How does one thank another for lifting them up — time and again?? You who pours your heart and soul into many amazing artistic endeavors and still finds the time to cheer others on…Talk about an inspiration! I thank you with all that I am. β™₯β™₯β™₯

  10. Thank you for taking me there, it was beautiful – you found the way! And the advice you received in the ceremony is something to remember – for all of us.

  11. Aww, thanks for coming along! What a pleasure to be able to reciprocate a bit as you’ve taken me many beautiful places with your writing…

  12. Ha! A beautiful landscape lies behind you in the pic. The journey, no doubt, must’ve been fulfilling and exciting. Thanks for sharingHa! A beautiful landscape lies behind you in the pic. The journey, no doubt, must’ve been fulfilling and exciting. Thanks for sharingHa! A beautiful landscape lies behind you in the pic. The journey, no doubt, must’ve been fulfilling and exciting. Thanks for sharingHa! A beautiful landscape lies behind you in the pic. The journey, no doubt, must’ve been fulfilling and exciting. Thanks for sharing.

  13. No worries whatsoever! You can repeat your kind words as many times as you’d like! πŸ™‚ I so appreciate your visit!!

  14. Wow this is awesome! It always amazes me how magical nature is.. I mean seriously, look at that view!

    I think it’s the fire within us that propels us to exceed mediocrity… It’s indeed a magical ingredient because we can never really tame it. We have to release it and watch how it enables us to do things we never thought we could. Otherwise, we’ll get burned inside…

    Thanks for sharing this! πŸ™‚

  15. Thank you for your wonderful insight. I so agree. May we all surge forward, exceeding our wildest dreams, fire burning brightly — always… πŸ™‚

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