Going to the mountains is like a pilgrimage for me: I fee at home and in absolute peace with myself there. The sparkling ling and open spaces of the mountains, their flora and fauna, the buzzing energy, the colours– they empty my mind of all thoughts and set it free. I feel that I have netered an enchanted and vibrant world– a world far away from the humdrum of everyday life. All paraphernalia of life including the emotional baggage just fall away from my thoughts, leaving them serene and joyous.
Why did I want to climb Mount Everest? I have deep regard and love for the mountains and Everest is the ultimate mountain, the queen, the Goddess. How profound it would be if I could get a chance to see her in person? It was a dream I had seen as a boy and now, incredibly, I got a change to be worthy of this dream. Dreams by their very definition are not limited by constraints or possibilities. Even though this dream of climbing Everest was on the edge of the impossible, had I not availed of the chance of attempting it, I would have regretted it all my life. I sometimes feel that even with a higher probability of injury or even death, I would still have wanted to go; I wanted it that bad. Gautama Buddha had said, ‘I do not believe in a fate that falls on men, however they act ; but I believe in a fate that falls on them unless they act.’ Perhaps I was out to prove it.
Before the expedition, reading about Everest and watching whatever films on climbing that I could lay my hands on made one thing very clear. It was a prospect fraught with severe hardships and myriad risks. Safety was at premium and some things were downright terrifying! What added to the challenge was the improbability of my summiting. I was not a typically experienced and expert mountaineer.
Everest has now acquired an altogether different meaning for me. It has become the nucleus of a mélange of new dreams, vision and ideas for my life, some easily achievable and some less so. It is for the epitome of a new equilibrium in my life. It embodies the infiniteness of the soul and the finiteness of the body. It solemnizes the solidarity of the cosmos with the individual– the ‘oneness’ that is all encompassing. It is the resounding reverberation of the life force within me and in everything else. It is a powerful postscript to liberate myself from the frenzied aimless pace of a formula life. Everest for me is also the spirit of a life lived spontaneously. It is elevated enlightenment itself.
What after Everest? Has anything changed for me in life after Everest? Everest taught me the joy of simplicity and how uncomplicated life can be, how an entire world of sharing and caring was slipping through my fingers unnoticed, how it is possible to have a creative correspondence of ideas with the elements of nature. The blessing of the summit of Everest is so huge on the horizon of my life that every problem seems insignificant in comparison. And the best part is that this experience is like a treasure inside; I can go back to draw strength from it whenever I want and it can never be taken away from me. It is deep inside me and mine for keeps.
‘Everests’ are intimidating and seemingly invincible. But they can be climbed bit by bit. Who knows they may even be willing you to try, just to show you what you are capable of! My ‘Everest’ happened to be the real one. It need not be so for everyone. It could be some other seemingly unachievable situation that we try our hardest to make happen.
So take the first step towards your own ‘Everest’ and begin your journey to shape your destiny. And as Swami Vivekananda had also said, ‘We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far.’
(Atul Karwal, IPS officer in Gujarat, India set out to fulfill his dream through a daunting journey to the summit of Mount Everest. He was a part of a part of 15-member police team and was successful in summiting the Everest on May 22. This article is an adaptation from Think Everest: Scaling Mountains with the Mind authored by Atul Karwal with his wife, Anita Karwal)