Posted: 03-Jan-2014 Category: Inspiration
My trip on the Na Poli Trail into Kalalau encapsulated all the lessons we need for 2014.
This hike is considered one of the most beautiful coastal hikes in the world.
2013 has been a long, tumultuous year. I have experienced change, loss, uncertainty, thrill, love -- and more.
But of all the things that I’ve experienced over the last year, 2013 stands out as a year of loss.
I have lost many things this year, from possessions to friends and at times even part of myself. While these losses have been difficult at times -- and there are some I still mourn -- I have come to realize that it is only by loss that we have room for new things in life.
Too often, we hold onto things in our life with an ever ending grip, which can be incredibly limiting to our future, growth, and happiness.
By holding so tight, we don’t have time or energy to seek out the new things we really need in our lives.
In this, loss is a cleansing. It opens up our mind, body and soul.
As hard as it has been to face loss of essential friends, possessions, and part of myself, I have experienced renewed clarity at the end of 2013. This all came about thanks to the Na Poli Coastal hike into the Kalalau valley.
I am an avid outdoorsman, but I have to admit that this hike is the most incredible one I have ever experienced. This hike encapsulated my entire 2013 into 6 lessons that I will carry with me into the best year of my life in 2014.
1. Expectations. Being as forward-thinking as I am, I specifically brought a portable phone charger so I would be able to keep my phone charged. My hope was to continue taking pictures and shooting inspirational videos for you all during my trek. However, about an hour into my hike, I realized I had left the cable in the car. Naturally, this bothered me. Every step I took, I felt the weight of regret. I kept replaying the point where I had the cable in my hand and left it on the seat. It bothered me more and more until I was positively upset.
Then I met up with Lea, who was also on the hike. I told her about my plight, and she shrugged, saying, “I never expected to have my battery last, so I guess it never bothered me.”
WOW! The impact expectations have in our lives. This is a whole new article, but a quick insight, expectations are the main ruin of our relationships and adventures.
It is amazing how powerful expectations can be, and how profoundly they can impact our experience. When my expectations failed to be fulfilled, expectations ca never be fulfilled, I refused to let them go, which led to festering. I almost ruined my hike due to failed expectations. I am so grateful for Lea’s simple perspective to shake me out of my rut.
2. Slow Down. I have a competitive spirit, so setting out, I wanted to go fast. However, I knew that there was no winning or losing in this hike, like any adventure in our lives. With this in mind, I purposefully told myself to go slower. This task was easier said than done, as we have conditioned ourselves just to accomplish as we hold our breath throughout.
I realized that going faster would have been the real loss. When walking slowly, I was able to see what makes this hike so incredible. This is considered one of the top coastal hikes in the world. The sights are simply unparalleled along the trail, and the farther along I went, the more natural it felt. Soon, this slower pace felt in synch. I was able to enjoy every breath, every view. I was able to appreciate the gentle breeze and the feeling of the trail beneath my feet. I took the time to sit on the ledge and eat my lunch. I played in the stream, reading and journaling with my shoes off in the quiet afternoon.
We move too fast in life, always trying to learn something new, to get someplace different. We always want to gain something new before we even appreciate what we have. As I slowed my pace during the hike, I remembered something my Buddhist friend Mike, that I studied with for 3 months in Asia, had told me - well, more so strongly implying and suggesting to me. “Fred,” he said, “you don’t have to keep learning and moving every minute. Take the time to internalize what you have experienced and see what it really means to you. Sit with it, let it become part of you.” That’s good advice, not just for the hike, but for every part of out life.
3. Learn to listen. Along the way, I met a man named Ric. Ric was very chatty, and we passed the time with his nonstop chatter. He talked and talked and talked -- about anything and everything. While Ric is a nice enough guy, I realized how distracting noise can be. There is a time and place for conversation -- that much is certain -- but sometimes it pays to just tune everything out and appreciate the silence. After all, looking back, I realize the portion of the trail I spent with Ric is the part I remember the least. I don’t remember the view or any special features. I was too distracted to appreciate any of it.
What beauty are we missing out in our lives due to all the distractions we create in our life?
This happens to us in daily life, and the problem is not just conversation. It’s all the noise in our lives, from the roar of traffic to the drone of the radio. It’s the television in the background or music playing on the iPod. This noise fills our senses and distracts us. We are hearing so much that we are no longer listening to any of it.
Just think about what things we’re missing in the haze. The beauty of our kids, the smile of our spouse. The touch from a loved one. We will never hear the value of these things until we start letting the silence speak, telling us the things that matter most.
4. Facing your fears. While much of the hike was pleasant, there was one portion that daunted me for days. Along the trail there is a "pass", which everyone kept talking about for days. In fact, while on my way up, I met a couple that decided to turn back and not cross it after seeing it. One look at the 300 meters along a 1.5 foot tiny gravel ledge with nothing but sheer cliffs to break my fall and I was considering turning back.
However, I was determined to get through it. I was going to face my fear, no matter what. With my mind made up, I told myself, “You are strong; you have no fear. It’s all in your head. Just move slow but do not stop or you will freeze and panic.”
This pep talk was enough to get me going, but halfway through, the view down was getting the better of me. As my panic started to build, I decided it was time to face my fear head on - punch the shark in the nose. That’s when I sat down on the ledge and wrote a page in my journal.
Sitting on this gravel ledge drop was no easy feat for me. But as I wrote, I realized that all the fears in life are our own creation. We create our fears, based on our expectations and what other people tell us. We build things up, make them larger than life, until we are paralyzed with fear.
We can walk on a beam that is on the ground, backward and forward. But the instant that beam is off ground, we freeze. Sitting on the ledge, I realized that I need to see my fears honestly and judge the distorted thoughts they are based on. Then, I can move forward with no hesitation. I started the pass terrified; I finished with confidence because I faced my fears and understood them.
Few days after, when I had to cross back, it was like the ledge never existed. This process works everyone, distorted thoughts, they are fake, just punch it in the nose and move forward with your life.
5. Community. What sets Kalalau apart is how peaceful it is. Heck there are so many things that set it a part - it truly is a magical place. At the end of the day, we worked together, collecting firewood and finding food. We built our fires and at times shared cooking duties. In the valley, we were part of the same community and our attitude reflected that. We helped each other. If someone was in need, another person came to their aid, with no expectations but to help a fellow community member.
I could not help but to imagine what our own communities would be like if we all had the mentality to help our fellow members.
This sense of community is often forgotten in normal life. We live busy lives and most of the time, we are all looking out for our own interests. We are too busy at work to help someone else. We are too tired at night to see what someone else needs. We work in our cubicles or offices, and turn on the television in our homes and just tune out the rest of the world.
That’s an empty way to live, and I know that more than ever after this adventure. We are all walking our own journey, but none of us should do it alone. Life is better in community.
6. The Gift Of Giving. I started off the hike carrying 50 pounds of food. Damn thing actually ripped the seams in my bag. Could have never imagined how 50 pounds of weight for 7 hours can really "weight" you down - seemed like a good idea in the beginning.
Every night, I went to the communal kitchen in the valley where the few locals lived and left some food behind. One of my favorite things was to get up in the morning and watch their reaction. They were so happy about having extra food, but the most amazing thing to see, absolutely the most amazing was their first response to share it with others. On the last night, I decided to leave all of it behind. This wasn’t easy for me, because honestly I wanted to be recognized for my generosity, but I left knowing I had done the right thing. As I walked away, I felt even better about my decision. In fact, that last gift was the most important of all because I didn’t get recognized. Instead, I gave for the sake of giving. In essence, the sense of doing the right thing was the best reward possible.
We need to remember how to be altruistic. We need to remember that the world is good and people are kind. Too often, we let our own selfishness distort our sense of the world. When we are closed off with our giving, we don’t have the opportunity to see the good in other people. It is only when we open ourselves up and give for the sake of giving that we can truly appreciate all that the world has to offer us in return.
After completing this trek, I realized why I felt such a sense of loss this year. The problem wasn’t me or my life, it was my perspective. I spent the year comparing myself to the society that I live in.
Why should I feel a sense of lose when other do not live with integrity and lack of worth behind their own word? I let myself be defined by external factors instead of using my own sense of self to define the world around me. All I can control is how I live my life, my sense of worth, the value I put behind my word and my name.
By trying to fight against the world and its expectations, I never won. Over the months, that loss compounding, leaving me broken and void.
With my time on the trail, I have managed to reclaim my life. I have renewed myself. I look forward to 2014 with a newfound eagerness that will not be muted.
In 2014, live your life for you. Don’t live it for others; don’t live it to prove your worth. No, simply live to be the kind of person you want to become. What you will find is that all the superficial parts and people in your life will start falling away, creating room for the love, kindness and calmness we are all searching for.
If you want to see the rest of the pictures click here.