In September of 2011, seven friends/students and I spent a month in Nepal trekking the Annapurna Circuit… a 200 mile journey that took us to a height of almost 18,000 ft. What a humbling and life defining experience! We walked an average of 9 hours and 15 miles per day and got broken down in every way… physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We all experienced the full spectrum of human emotion. Not a day went by without tears being shed and realizations about ourselves and our lives being made. In short, we got our asses handed to us daily… nothing like a healthy dose of humble pie to help gain perspective on your life. Through the journey, however, we were surrounded by breath taking views and unparalleled nature. On the first day we were all very excited… taking photos every 10 steps, commenting on the beauty of things and tripping out that we were in the Himalayas. This quickly changed as fatigue set in… we talked less, walked slower, and photo ops began to be more spaced out. By the 3rd day, we were all sore, exhausted, and wondering how the hell are we gonna make it 17 more days like this. We were being broken down and had to find ways to motivate our worn out bodies. At one point when I stopped to catch my breath and rest my legs I asked myself a key question that helped get us through the rest of the journey… the question: Despite the condition that you’re in (tired, hungry, emotional, and wet), is this (the scenery) still beautiful? The answer… yes! Somehow this inner dialogue gave me a new boost of energy and I continued on. I then asked my friends that same question when they were struggling (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually) and the result was the same… they would answer “yes” and have an instant rush of refreshing energy that helped them with what they were going through. This question helped shape our trek. We began to ask each other this question anytime someone was struggling with something and it quickly evolved to us asking it of ourselves. The response to the question also evolved from a simple “yes” to “yes… you are still beautiful” to “Annapurna… you sexy bitch!”. There would even be times along the trek when we would randomly blurt out one of the usual answers to the question. This always brought a smile to my face as I knew that there was a struggle that was being overcome at that moment.
This question/technique not only changed the face of our trek, it changed my life. I now use it in reference to my life goals whenever I am struggling with something. Instead of the Himalayas, however, I often look to sunsets, the ocean, flowers, or a lofty view. By saying to myself “yes, this is still beautiful… even in the condition I’m in” reminds me of the bigger picture… that the universe does not revolve around me… that my problems can be easily be out shined… and that I have the strength to persevere because I am part of something greater.