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How to Survive an Avalanche

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.
-Martin Buber

Dear Warrior Soul,

Part of recovering from the debilitating depression that I mentioned here was taking a three-month solo trip around the world. It was my first long-term international adventure and a vital part of my healing process.

I started in Thailand, then ventured to Nepal where I trekked the Himalayas for three weeks. Hiking up and down mountains, across rivers, through fields and over cliffs for seven hours a day was one of the most challenging, beautiful, serene, empowering, transformative experiences of my life.

Not only did it reconnect me with my body, breath, sanity and the geographical glory of our planet, it put me smack dab in the middle of one of the world’s most amazing and dangerous natural wonders—an avalanche.

Here’s what I learned from that experience:

1. Be mindful of what you ask for, you just might get it.

Towards the beginning of the trip, I whispered to the Universe that I wanted to see an avalanche. It seemed like a far-off enough muttering of desire that I didn’t put too much thought, energy or attention into it actually happening. As a matter of fact, I was completely detached from the possibility of it actually occurring.

Lest I forget the Universe is always listening and responding to our desires, especially when we’re not obsessed with dictating how they manifest.

When we’re open to the process and detached from the form, magic happens in the most serendipitous and surprising ways.

Not only did I end up seeing an avalanche, I was in one.

2. You are always prepared for the present moment, even if you don’t know it.

I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but the Annapurna region where I was trekking is one of the most dangerous mountain ranges in the world due in part to their avalanches.

What I initially thought was the sound of popcorn was actually ice, rock and snow breaking from the side of the mountain and violently cascading towards me at over 200 miles an hour.

I had a split-second to save my life.

With no point of reference, avalanche expertise or seasoned counsel giving me advice, I had to do the best I could with what I had and trust that it would be enough.

It always is.

3. Even when good, knowledgeable folks are leading, you‘ve got to go your own way when it gets down to it.

When the avalanche started, we were on a steep and dangerously narrow cliff on the side of the mountain. My guide was a few feet in front of me and two porters were several feet behind me. There was nowhere in the immediate vicinity to hide.

I had two choices: seek out refuge with my guide or run down the mountain and hide with the porters. Nothing besides my gut could inform my decision, and I had to figure something out lickety-split.

In an instant, I pivoted on my heels and ran as fast as I could with the men behind me. We crawled into a small cave on the side of the mountain with just enough time to see the snow, ice, rock cocktail catapult past the tiny opening.

Turns out, if I had gone with my guide, one of us would have been left out in the avalanche. The cave closest to him only had room enough for one.

Your gut always knows, even when your head doesn’t.

4. Don’t take baggage with you. There may not be room where you’re going.

In the milliseconds it took to recognize that I was not at Space Mountain, that this was, in fact, a REAL avalanche, I dropped everything I was carrying and ran as fast as I could to safety.

It was a small cave. There was barely enough room for the three of us. Good thing we’d all dropped our bags as soon as we headed to shelter. If any of us had tried to squeeze our bags in with us, there wouldn’t have been enough time or room for the third person to fit. They would have been left out in the avalanche to fend for themselves.

How often are we carrying something that only moments, months, years before may have been useful yet it is totally unnecessary and burdensome now?

5. The journey continues.

We emerged from the cave, surrounded by new piles of snow and wide patches of bare ground. I was shaken, unsettled and overwhelmingly grateful. My trust for the mountain was both fortified and wobbly as it had threatened and saved me.

I did not quit, head home or stay cowering in the cave until I learned to fully trust the mountain again. I continued forward until we reached Annapurna Basecamp as planned. I’m so grateful I kept on the journey despite the uncertainty that surrounded me.

After all, aren’t we always surrounded by uncertainty and instability?

My encounter with the avalanche reminded me that nothing is static. We all experience big, scary, loud times that rattle us to the core and force us to question reality.

Sometimes we don’t know how we’re going to survive or continue past the point of impact.

Our hiding places may be small, dark, uncomfortable and not look like we expect, but it’s up to us to continue forward and meet whatever is present–head on.

As the saying goes, the lessons are in the journey, not the destination. They’re in the ability to stay present and you trust yourself enough to make the most authentic decisions–no matter what is happening around you.

Continuing on my path enabled me to see some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, meet some of its most glorious people and experience a sense of empowerment greater than I would have ever imagined.

As the elders say, “I wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey now”.

All my love,

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