I did it… I finally did it!
Do you remember when I took the first survival training course, and in day 2, I graciously bowed out of going on the long walk up to Monte Cavallaria? (If you forgot, you can read about that experience here.) That was four months ago, and my mind and body were not ready then for the long hike up the mountainside.
Last week, I was meeting with my spiritual research partner and woods guide, Muflone, to create lesson plans for the two groups we are responsible for. He casually mentioned that on Sunday he was taking a group up to Cavallaria. My body trembled when he said it would be a seven hour hike up from 797m/ 2615ft in altitude, up to 1464m/4803ft. That’s a steep slope!
And yet, I knew it was time for me to attempt again—to overcome my fear of even trying.
It Starts With Good Gear
You’ve heard me tell you again and again that I was not born a mountain girl. I have a relatively healthy fear of steep slopes. In part, I am not really all that coordinated going up rocks. It’s funny, since I was a dancer for many years, so I am actually quite in touch with my body. And yet, there is something about walking on rocks that just brings out the clumsy in me. You should have seen me trying to walk in heels when I lived in Florence. I can’t tell you how many times I feel on the cobblestone.
Only two things could help me in this situation: good equipment and lots of practice.
It’s amazing how much more secure you feel in a good pair of hiking boots with trekking poles! For years, I had been using hand-me downs or going in just sneakers. Kind of like all that energy spent cobbling together my business with freeware and an inordinate amount time doing things that could have been automated with just a few clicks. When I finally unlocked features by actually paying for my mailing list and Zapier, my whole business got easier and faster.
There’s No Substitute For Consistency
Even with good gear, if you don’t get out there, you’re never going to overcome the fear. It’s just that simple. You have to do it, in order to master it.
So that’s what I’ve been doing. Every opportunity I got, I would head out into the woods. (BTW, am I the only one that gets “Into the Woods” by Sondheim stuck in her head every time she hears or speaks that phrase? Now I can’t stop singing!!)
Back to the woods… so much to learn, so much to feel, so much awe…
Mainly, I’ve been going out with my woods guide and with my spiritual research group. Not only do I get to feel my way through varying degrees of difficulty, I also get to share the more esoteric connections you can only make immersed in the primal heartbeat of my True Nature.
It’s kind of like a muscle—a heart muscle, to be exact. You need to exercise it constantly so that more blood (and love) can flow through it. Using it not only makes it strong, it also makes you more confident in its use.
First you might take some lessons, then you might try some 1:1 support to gain confidence in those parts you have yet to understand. When you’re more in command of the skills, you venture off on your own, putting the muscle to the test. You might come back to your guide to ask about some area where you feel you could improve. It’s a iterative process where you try, assess, refine, then try again.
When it comes to forests, I’m in the 1:1 support to gain confidence phase, then testing with a group, with glimpses of venturing off on your own.
Focus On The Spiritual Body First
To prepare for the summit attempt (I know, I know 1464m is not a huge summit, but it was big for me), Saturday, my spiritual research group and I hiked up to a pristine Silver Fir (Abies alba Miller) range in the woods of Fondo, Italy. It’s the only one of it’s kind in the area, and it is truly breathtaking.
All the way up from 987m/3238ft to 1250m/4104ft, we focused on the body. We set our intentions to expand our perceptions and awareness in order to collect the maximum amount of information possible from the external world. Then consciously taking this into your body, you can refine the perceptions of your inner world.
Once in the Silver Fir range, we sat with the trees to meditate. It was a gorgeous day, cool and crisp, with a sliver on sunlight coming into our temple sanctuary. The earth below was squishy from the many needles and prickly from the cone seeds that fell from the trees above. There was a saturation of space unlike any I have experienced before. I could sense myself being seen by unseen beings, as if I were stripped naked. I felt complete trust and completely seen from the inside out.
Here I received the first two Lessons from the Woods:
It took me a while to stand up; I felt the need to drink up the full download before ever looking back at the tree holding me up. When we finally locked looks, the feeling was indescribable!
Our hike didn’t end there, we continued on to a ghost town called Cantoncello at 1171m/3862ft where we sat together and each read a personal book that brings us into BEING. I read more of Braiding Sweetgrass—our current book club book—being called to a passage that reads, “The land is the real teacher. All we need as students is mindfulness.” So true…
There were several other experiences had that day, but if I wrote about all of them, I would fill the pages of a book. Who knows, maybe one day I will do that.
Next You Test the Physical Body
As we parked the cars in the town of Brosso and started our hike up to Cavallaria on Sunday, I found myself in the shadow of doubt from the previous attempt. What if I don’t make it? Or worse, given that we would be taking a different trail up than the one going down, what if I hold the entire group back from reaching the top?
This time my pack was lighter, my legs were stronger, and I had my sturdy trekking poles to lean on. I could do this… right?
Step by step, we started walking. I didn’t realize how much of the path would be rocky slopes covered in fall leaves starting their decomposition back into the earth. In other words, it was steep and slippery.
I purposely put myself in the last half of our group of eight so I could pace myself with the people ahead of me, while being gently encouraged by my two friends behind. They know me, and trust that I will push my limits as far as I can; so if I stop, it’s not for lack of trying.
More Lessons From The Woods
For three hours we walked up winding paths through forests and the occasional prairie. We were even stopped by a tribe of cashmere goats (yep, a group of goats is called a tribe and cashmere actually comes from goats, not sheep, who knew?!) along the path. Actually, they didn’t stop us, their fierce guard dogs did. We learned very quickly that it is best to sit still and let them pass, as dogs get very angry if you try to mess with one of their goats!
I have to tell you that there were at least two times I didn’t think I would make it. In that woodland silence, my heartbeat felt like it was in overdrive. How does one catch their breath in such cool, mountain air?
By stopping, that’s how.
And that’s what I did… I stopped. While the group continued forward, I stood to the side and let them pass me by. The first time I was worried I wouldn’t catch up, but there was a whisper that said, “Take the time you need, and you will see how you not only catch up, you will even surpass at times.” I have a feeling the message was coming from the wild grasses around me. When I was lucky enough to step on kin instead of rock, I received a surge of energy through my boots!
Grass was right. Now and again the group would stop to drink some water or take in a site, and I would slowly keep going. With each step, I grew more confident in my abilities. The trail was teaching me where to put my feet and how to use my poles. I tried many different techniques, and realized that there wasn’t just one. Every situation had its own unique combination, only with lots of practice will you know which one works best.
In my growing confidence, I received the third lesson from the woods:
Reaching the Summit
The feeling of seeing those flags as we rounded the corner and climbed up the final rocky cliff is something I will carry with me. It’s not so much that it was some massive elevation, like climbing Everest, it is because I got there consciously.
I chose this day to do this hike.
I chose to pause when my body was weak.
I chose to keep going when I was ready.
I chose to equip myself with the best tools for the job.
I chose to rely on my friends for guidance and help.
I choose to expand my abilities.
Standing at the very top, looking out across the value, the woods below whispered their fourth lesson for me:
Do you have a fear you are wanting to evolve and master?
Share it here, and if you need help to get there, this is where having a supportive ecosystem can be so powerful. Reach out if you want to talk about how I can support you on your journey.