Years ago, a friend invited me on a weekend camping trip in the High Sierras with as one of a group of 14 people – all more experienced than me. He probably thought I needed toughening up. I gathered up a back pack and sleeping bag, and did my best to pack only what seemed necessary. But my pack was heavy.
On the first night, we camped at a ranger’s station and set out the next morning. Since I was a first-time backpacker, my friend was watching out for me, but he was a little distracted because there was a girl in our group who he was interested in.
On My Own
I was slow and at the back of the pack with my friend, and the girl he was interested in. He wanted to sit and talk to the girl, so he told me to keep on going — just stay high and to the right.
Off I trudged. Alone. Each time I arrived at a juncture and I would hear his voice in my head, “High and to the Right”. I kept walking for a few hours. I didn’t see anyone amid the gorgeous scenery. Suddenly I found myself at the end of the trail, high on a snowy peak. No path in front of me. No “high and to the right” left. All I could see was more mountain peaks. I was lost in the High Sierras.
I started to panic. Like freak out. I threw my backpack on the ground, and then dropped my wilted, frightened self on top of it.
I had just started learning about meditation. I knew it was a way to still the mind. I wasn’t sure how, but a still mind seemed like a very good idea in these circumstances. So, just a stab in the dark, or should I say the wilderness, I decided I should lay on my back. The only place was a rock formation that looked a bit like a platform, but the volcanic rock was sharp and jagged. In desperation, I lay down on it anyway.
Then I thought I should close my eyes. Now what? In my art work I had been working with a goddess image, so I conjured her up in my mind. She did bring me peace, but I was still freaking out. What good would peace do me now! So I asked the Goddess in my mind, what I need to know to get out of here. And she stood over me. I felt all the mountains around me swirling into my heart area. And then the snow and the giardia-filled creek nearby. And I heard her say, “You are a part of all of this, and it is a part of all of you. You would not bring harm to yourself, and neither would all of this around you.”
I wasn’t afraid any more. I laid there on my back and asked myself what I should do. I realized that I got lost when I went forward, but if I went back to the camp where our group started, I would know where I was.
So I headed back. There was another group camping there. I told them I was lost and that this was the last place I saw my group. They told me I was interrupting their Bible study, but I could go over there and sit and wait. One of the guys did come over and talk to me for a bit, but I was alone. Finally, the posse arrived! They gathered me up and took me to our camp site.
It had been an invigorating feeling to realize that I had, in essence, rescued myself. My friend felt bad that he had sent me on my own, a wilderness no-no, especially for a first timer. But I also think he regretted inviting me. I was determined to enjoy the rest of the trip.
The next day it was time to do the last part of the hike. This time he kept me in sight in front of him the whole day. But I was somehow feeling stronger about who I was in the world. At a certain part on the trail we had to get down off of a bluff. My friend directed me to go down what looked like a shoot, rather than a trail. My feet just wouldn’t take me there, so he said he would go first.
He took two steps down and tumbled head over heels to the bottom which was about 75 feet. I was horrified, but I moved to that place in my mind I had been with the Goddess. The next thing I knew, some part of me was down there with him, looking in his face, “Are you okay?” “yes, he groaned, and then I was right back up on the ridge.
I told the others that he was okay. I was filled with new-found confidence, and I had just been rock climbing for the one and only time the weekend before. There was a small invisible path along a rock face over to an easier path. I said, “Follow me, put your feet where mine are.” And I found footholds in the rock face. We scaled the front and got on the path and went down to where he was.
Isn’t it interesting how this kind of confidence can come up in us?
I went from the one who was lost to the one who saved our guide.
It was all a matter of perception and intuition, of believing in myself that shifted everything.
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