I woke up the other evening an hour after I went to bed to the top pole of my tent hitting me–creating a bit of panic. While I slept, fairly
straight-line winds started blowing through the mountains where I was camping. My first thought was that my tent was going to get picked up and thrown off the edge and I was going to be a goner. Yes, my brain/ego mind does get overly dramatic at times, and this was one of them. I held up my pole and hoped my tent wouldn’t break as I considered what to do in my fully-adrenalized state.
Of course, to calm my panic, I started talking out loud to my own brain and whatever wanted to listen–my angels/ God/ Universe/ whatever you want to call it, asking for help and guidance. The first thing that popped in my mind was to “calm down-at least no one is shooting at you.”
Yep. It put it all in perspective. I am not in a hurricane, tornado, snowstorm, or war, nor am I injured in any way. I am tired, cold, and a bit confused, and my mind wants to tell me it’s the end of the world-because that is how our mind works to try to keep us safe. It doesn’t matter if it’s a break-up, death, job change, or self-induced stress—-our mind wants us to be safe and cozy and to not take chances, risks, or to grow. Uugh.
So, reminding myself that I survived getting locked in an elevator after experiencing the edge of a panic attack, and that people in this world have had to cling to cliffs to stay alive overnight…. or swim hundreds of miles… or overcome torture…or find cover while being shot at or hurt…so on and so forth…I got dressed one-handed (the other one was conveniently still holding up my center pole), packed up the bits of my hiking pack that weren’t packed, and took down the center tent, leaving the rain fly and footprint in place. I noted that my stakes were holding strong. Hmmmm, perhaps it wasn’t as bad as it seemed, it was just something new that I had not experienced before. I was cold and nervous and it sucked, but there was nothing to indicate I was in any actual danger, no reason to panic, no matter what my loud brain voice kept telling me.
I waited kind of patiently for a small break in the wind (with my ego monkey mind telling me that if any of the stakes let loose I should let the tent go and crawl out and allow it to sail away so I didn’t go with it…the drama of the ego survival mind really was being annoying that evening) and when it calmed down a bit, I took the rain fly off the structure, stuffed it and the tent into my bag, then broke the rest down and put it away.
Now what? I was near the top of a mountain, in the full-moon semi-cloudy dark with my headlamp and my pack, with at least a 90-minute hike down to dry, flat, protected ground. I decided that was too dangerous, so I opted for the 2nd best option. I pulled out my emergency blanket (the kind that looks like aluminum foil but really traps heat as well as provides a bit of protection from rain should there be any) and climbed next to a large rock. There was no more need for panic it seemed, so I may as well rest. I slept in my sleeping bag and e-blanket sitting up–propped with my pack on my back and the rock on my left. It was a bit chilly, and I got a bit stiff in my neck and hips and didn’t sleep very well, but I survived. Heck, it actually was pretty great to be out in the open, listening to the wind and watching the fog between the mountains.
The next day was absolutely gorgeous. Sunny and 70-75 degrees F with no rain-just as predicted. I was bummed as I was too tired to feel I could safely continue the hike. The path was to take me over 3 more peaks, and was rated a 4/4 difficulty with narrow ledges and loose rocks (not in the same spaces) and I just didn’t want to risk getting hurt because I was too tired. I learned a lesson though….I think.
First-no matter what you want to overcome, shut off the part of your mind that says you cannot do it. Second-focus on potential and what is going right (stakes were still there, there is no rain, I was well-fed and had a lot of good equipment to keep me warmish and dryish, even without a tent.) Third-look at the wind reports, not just weather reports if I plan to camp on top of a mountain or near it.
How else can I apply this subtle lesson from nature? Our fears manifest in many ways and our ego mind wants to create panic, make excuses, protect us, and justify why we cannot or should not do things like make a career change, shift a relationship, take a risk, and so on. It can sound like logic and we can have so many reasons coming from that ego-driven monkey brain why we are not going to thrive or prosper. Shut it down. It is there to try to keep you safe, but it is false safety. It may be scary, uncomfortable, and even really really sucky, but it probably isn’t going to kill you.
I encourage you to take the chance! Look at me-over here in Europe, trying things I never thought I would have the opportunity to try, while also taking chances in all kinds of ways. I have a basic plan here and there, but I am winging it and it is turning out even better than if i had planned it in full detail. It becomes easier to shut off my mind and to calm the voices that really aren’t there to help, but are only there to hold me back.
This week, listen to one thing that your ego voice is telling you that isn’t true. It could be about how things are hard, how a change cannot be made, it could be something you believe about yourself and your own value and worth in the world. Then tell it to be quiet. You are strong and powerful, and you can do anything you set your mind to. I know this to be true. Don’t panic. You’ve got this.
Dawn (more pictures below of this great hike!)