Sunday, July 5, 2009

Triumph of the Hills

My husband and I set off on a hilly six mile walk early this morning. It's a beautiful day in Pennsylvania and was perfect for some vigorous exercise.

The first two miles of our trek were uneventful. No hills or uneven terrain to navigate. We hardly were aware we were exercising it was so easy. Soon after the two mile mark, however, we came to our first hill climb. As we shifted gears and got into the mindset of tackling the incline, I remembered my first running lesson many years ago.

I was trying to run a mile uphill without stopping to take a break. I remember my husband, an experienced marathoner, telling me to not focus on how far I had to go, but to keep my head down looking at the ground beneath my feet. In essence, he told me to focus on taking one step at a time and to imagine my footstep was actually pressing the ground out flat. This imagery had an amazing affect on my ability. While following his instruction my mind allowed my body to make that first hill climb without the usual suffering my thoughts of dread would create.

As I practiced this lesson this morning, I naturally transformed my physical experience into a metaphor for life. How easy it is to look ahead at how much work there is to do and how hard it will be to reach our goals. We set ourselves up for pain, suffering and difficulty. When we are so sure that our goals will not be easy to reach and that suffering is mandatory, our enjoyment of the process is also interrupted.

My desire is to hold the image of reaching the top of each hill I climb and experiencing that lovely feeling of triumph as I arrive, knowing that it was simply one step at a time that got me there.

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