Mount Everest Journal: My Trek From Lukla to Everest Base Camp – Days 9 to 13

What goes up, must come down, so after achieving our goal of reaching the Everest Base Camp, it was time for the long trek back down to Lukla and then Katmandu. Our route back tracked our route up. We hiked five hours to Periche where we would stay overnight and retrace our steps back to Lukla. It’s a slow trek down to avoid injury and because it’s the final opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty of this place. I used these days to reflect on the trek. I focused on what I learned, how I can integrate this knowledge into my life and also how I can share it with other members of the Spiritual Adrenaline community

Smoking & Recovery: I am proud to report my lungs functioned amazingly during the trek. I had no issues getting up steep inclines and hiking through difficult terrain, often times in exceptionally cold weather. After five years smoke free, my lungs functioned exceptionally well and past the “Everest Base Camp Test”. I remember when I was trying to quit smoking, reading materials that explained how lung function improves after one year, two years, three years, etc. I am proud to report that what I read back then has come true for me.  My lungs have the capacity to heal and they have. The good news for people in recovery is this is also true for the heart, liver and kidneys. Cutting off toxins and integrating a healthy lifestyle can aid healing in the lungs and other critical organs. Throughout the trek, all the way from Lukla to Everest Base Camp, cigarette butts littered the pristine natural beauty of the trail. Tourists, porters and Sherpa’s alike smoked to get their fix and more often than not, threw their butts on the ground, contaminating the very natural beauty which drives the mountain economy. Like any addict, the only thing smokers care about is getting their fix. The damage to their health and the majestic beauty of the mountain country in Nepal matters not. The only thing that matters is getting their fix.  I am glad I did not contribute to the cigarette butts littering the trail. I could not have completed this trek if I still smoked. I’m glad I quit and did not contribute to the destruction of the natural beauty of the Everest region. If you are trying to quit, visit our smoking cessation page at spiritualadrenqline.com.

The Benefits of Community: This trek was challenging for two reasons. First, we trekked more than thirty miles over some really tough terrain. A couple of days we trekked for hours at a time up steep mountain passes with inclines exceeding forty-five or fifty degrees. Second, the weather was 20 degrees Fahrenheit or thereabouts during the day and as cold as -10 to -20 Fahrenheit at night with the wind-chill. Dealing with the cold became a major emotional challenge that at times exceeded the challenge of the actual trek. I don’t think I would have continued up without the support of my five fellow trekkers. I raised the issue at breakfast one morning and they all confirmed the same was true for them. There is a power in being part of a community, whether it be a group fitness class at the gym, your home group, a class or club at an educational institutes or group therapy, that make challenging and sometimes down right unpleasant situations more palatable. Research has confirmed that people are far more likely to continue to participate in activities when they are part of a group. I think it’s fair to say I would have turned around and headed back to a warmer environment had I not been part of a group of trekkers. The same is true for my recovery. If I hadn’t had an amazing sponsor and home group in my first year, I am not sure if I would have hung around and succeeded. In so many ways, being “part of” increases the chances of success in so many areas of life.

Life Off the Grid: A wonderful part of this trip was living off the grid for almost two weeks. By “off the grid” I mean no access to cell communication, Wi-Fi or any other type of social media. Given the demands constantly placed on me (I bet you can relate), I am rarely present in the “now”. I am multi-tasking, constantly receiving texts and messages on my social media sites. So even if my body is present, my mind is often not. It’s off in other places thinking about other things. It took me three days to fully “withdraw” from the toxic effects of my electronic devices and social media. Once I did, I felt a profound sense of happiness. I am actually in Nepal, without any outside people, places or things to obstruct connecting with the Nepalese people, my fellow trekkers, and nature. My anxiety went away, I feel so “one” with the people and my surroundings. I truly feel like I am living, rather than trying keep up with the demands being placed on me by others back in New York. Working is not living: It took me almost fifty years to learn that. For most of the last two weeks, I’ve truly been alive.

Gratitude for the Little Things: One thing that becomes unmistakable in Katmandu, and even more I the mountain culture is how difficult life is here for the average person. This is not unique and true in many developing counties. However, up above the clouds in the mountain country of Nepal, it smacks you right in the face. People carry heavy loads of goods on narrow mountain passes for miles and miles for the equivalent of $1.50 a day. Women wash cloths in mountain steams barefoot in high elevation. Most live without running water and heat even though temperatures can -20 with wind-chill at night. Whenever I return from a trip like this, it grounds me and reminds me that on my worst day in New York City, I live in better conditions than so many people around the world. It reminds me to stop bitching in the morning when a train is late, or a waiter takes to long to deliver my food at a restaurant. It reminds me to stay in gratitude for all the blessings I have been given. This trek reinforced that I have no excuse but to maintain an attitude of gratitude for how fortunate I am.

Comfort Zone: This trek has been hard. Many times I considered turning back. Waking up in the freezing cold was jarring. Endless hours of trekking up steep inclines, sucks no matter how beautiful the surroundings. However, as the days passed and I successfully cleared physical and emotional hurdles, the sense of accomplishment pushed me to continue on. I developed an attitude of gratitude for my recovery program, my lungs which have been restored to health, and all the other blessings in my life. Accomplishing positive things can, in and of itself, become addictive. Addictive in a good way! It makes me want to challenge myself and push myself further. I am not looking to hide in what I know and makes me comfortable, but rather to learn new things and continue to grow, even if it makes me uncomfortable. That’s where life and recovery begins. Think about this: If you weren’t willing to step out of your comfort zone, you would have never stopped using drugs and alcohol? Probably not! So you’ve done it before and benefitted with a whole new lease on life. Why not try it again, in sobriety, and see where it takes you? That’s my attitude about life. When I step out of my comfort zone, even if it doesn’t take me where I want to go, it takes me where I need to be.

The Power of Nature: I was born, raised and live in the concrete jungle of New York City. It’s a place I love but also a place that makes me feel disconnected from nature and the natural rhythm of things. For the last two weeks I’ve been almost completely disconnected from the concrete jungle I know and have been almost exclusively surrounded by nature. Not just nature, but probably the most majestic and grand natural preserve in the world: Sagamartha National Park! which includes the Everest region, in Nepal. I was not only surrounded by nature but lived within its rules and in concert with its rhythms. I awoke when the sun came up, went to bed when it set, hiked during daylight and avoided trekking at night given how dangerous it is in the dark. I ate primarily foods gleaned from the land or animals that can live at high altitude, for example “yaks”.  I lived as one with nature rather then apart. It took me back to my instinctual roots. I feel like this is how I was meant to live. Most of the time, I am in a city with de minimus green spaces, where most of the social events happen after dark and most things I eat have no connection to my local community. Although I love where I live, I’ve felt much less stress and anxiety living within the natural cycle of things. It’s made me start thinking about how I can make changes to my lifestyle back home to try and keep a closer connection to nature. I think it’s easier to stay sober when you live within the natural cycle of things rather than an environment where man manipulates nature.

Active Sober Lifestyle: I could have gone to a beach resort as my vacation. At various times during the trek I wished I had. However, for all the reasons I already shared, this trek was where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. Whether I went to a beach resort or on the trek, I think it’s critical to vacation in a manner consistent with my desire to stay sober. it’s self-defeating to put myself in a “party” like crazy environment when I purport to want to live sober. I say this because this is my second go round at sobriety. The first go round, I refused to leave the “party like crazy environment” and thought I’d be the “sober guy” surrounded by partying and all the decadence that comes with it. Guess what? I relapsed badly. However, I’ve learned from my past mistakes and now make sure to vacation in a manner consistent with my goals in sobriety and life. I place great emphasis on being surrounded by nature and by showing my gratitude where appropriate. For example, in addition to the trek I visited the spiritual birthplace of Buddha. Lastly, I try to incorporate an active sober component into the trips I take and places I go. All of theses things make it not only easier to stay sober but so much more fun. This trek has been a blessing and in some respects, life-changing in a positive way. I won’t be returning home the same as when I left. I’ve grown exponentially from my experience.   Come with me on an adventure.  Check out the “adventures” page at spiritualadrenaline.com.

 

 

Mount Everest Journal: My Trek From Lukla to Everest Base Camp: Day Three

After breakfast, we set out for a morning hike of about three hours to Namche Bazaar. The morning hike was extremely steep and very challenging. It challenged everyone in my group, and made me so grateful that I had quit smoking. I kept focusing on how my lungs felt as I took very deep breaths in and out. As I made my way up the steep and curving incline I couldn’t help but think about how my lungs and body would be reacting to this climb if I still smoked. Here’s what I know: I wouldn’t have made it to this point.  It wouldn’t have been possible. I could barely walk a city block without wheezing. I wouldn’t have been here enjoying the beautiful vistas, breathing in the fresh mountain air and physically challenging myself on this difficult trek. If I tried this trek while smoking, an air ambulance would be needed to come and take me to the hospital in Lukla.

The morning hike also brought me once again face-to-face with my biggest fear: A suspension-bridge to Namche. It’s the highest suspension bridge on the trek and I was not looking forward to crossing it.

We came to two smaller bridges earlier which helped give me the confidence I needed as a build up to this bridge. When we finally arrived, my fellow trekkers gave me lots of encouragement as we were about to head across. That really made me feel great and it reinforced just how important it is to have sangha or a community of people to support one another. At various times even this early into the hike, I’d encouraged others and tried to keep their spirits up when they were struggling. Now it was my turn to get encouragement and boy did I need it.

I started out across the bridge, I took the advice of one of my fellow trekkers and focused on the prayer flags. I kept looking at the prayer flags, hoping my higher power was paying attention and kept telling myself “fear is not a fact and doesn’t rule my life”. I made it into a mantra and kept repeating it and it helped a lot. I had a sense of support from my fellow trekker, the Sherpa’s who placed the prayer flags on the bridge and their prayers blowing in the wind to give me strength, and all that my higher power has allowed me to accomplish in the last eight years. There was no way I was I turning back! I walked through the renunciation gate in Lumbini and am committed to my new lifestyle, the Spiritual Adrenaline lifestyle, no matter what. With all that in mind, I successfully crossed that bridge and believe I have the tools necessary to continue crossing whatever bridge or barrier that gets in my way.

The hike continued to an amazing town at 11,000 feet, Namche Bazaar, To reach Namche, you must climb for about two hours through a beautiful but dense forest with steep inclines almost the whole way.

Namche Bazaar at 11,500.00 feet.

When you arrive at Namche, you cannot miss the Stupa, prayer flags and seven prayer wheels that greet you as you enter. It’s a testament to the strength of the Buddhist faith that even at 11,000 feet, large stone monuments have been constructed to act as a “gate” or entry way into the village. Namche has tiny ancient roads, alleys and lots of other places to explore. I was really careful walking around as people share the steers with donkeys and yaks. In fact, a renegade yak was running through one of the narrow streets chased by a Sherpa during our short visit. Women wash clothes and gather water for their families at the public fountains near the entrance to town. The water comes from the glaciers high above. It’s the easy access to plentiful and clean glacier water that makes Namche’s existence possible. Everyone in the group wished we had more time to spend in Namche. However, we had to keep climbing.

Past Namche we walked along a narrow mountain ledge that winded it’s way to the village of Tashinga. All along the narrow pass was one stupa after another and prayers carved into the rock situated along the trail. The prayer rocks are the Buddhist way of communicating with trekkers, Sherpa’s and anyone else passing through. This gave the ancient trail a feel of being a sacred place. We finally arrived at our tea house for a total trekking time for day was six hours and our altitude is 11,500 feet. We’ll all sleep very well.

What Happens at an Allen Carr “Easy Way to Stop Smoking” Seminar?

I interviewed David Skiest, North American representative for Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking to share with us why their program works.   In this interview, David explains what happens at a 1 day seminar sponsored by Allen Carr’s Easy Way. This program helped me and millions of others kick the habit. For more information, visit: http://www.allencarr.com