This week I chatted with someone preparing to climb Mt. Everest.
This wasn't a metaphor for challenges she is facing or obstacles to be overcome; she intends to summit the mountain.
As we discussed her recent training trip in Nepal, she talked about preparation for combating high altitude sickness. I asked what she could do to prevent it and she named a medication, but quickly added, "the most important piece is addressing my fear."
I needed her to connect the dots. What does fear have to do with avoiding cerebral edema?
When we feel afraid our brains kick into survival and self-preservation mode. Adrenaline courses through the body causing the heart to race as it pumps blood faster and harder to large muscles, preparing them for the "getaway."
And while the heart is beating wildly, our lungs kick into a rapid, shallow pattern taking in oxygen quickly in case we need to defend ourselves or make a speedy escape. In and out goes the air, with less and less oxygen saturation.
The penny dropped.
Fear leads to the brain not being properly oxygenated. I knew that, but somehow it struck me differently in this context. And what amazed me more was how this woman has prepared herself to combat fear from genuine risk.
"One wrong step and I'd be falling thousands of feet into Tibet." Yikes.
Over the course of this last year, this adventurer has spent two hours a day quietly reflecting on her inner world, identifying issues that scare her and breathing through them. Over time she has come to associate one word with the relaxed, deep breathing that oxygenates her brain and saves her life.
So, on a Nepalese mountain, when crossing a raging waterfall, she thought of her word and immediately felt her body respond: muscles relaxed, lungs filled, thinking cleared.
I came away from our chat struck by the significance of these insights. Don't get me wrong, I don't intend to take up mountaineering. However, I feel like the principles she employs are brilliant for everyday living as well.
Today I am pondering my fears and how I might come back to truth, or a promise. What could be a redeeming trigger to bring me to peace when stressed?
With love and gratitude,
In The Midst