I feel blessed to have participated in the 8th Annual 9ll Memorial Mt Grant Challenge in Hawthorne, Nevada this past weekend. I joined the event with friends because of the mountain and the challenge–17 miles with 7,000 feet of elevation gain (starting at 4,250 feet, ending at 11,239 feet). I went anticipating a grand adventure, a great hike, connecting with friends, all elements of life that fuel me. I came home reminded of a deeper sense of purpose and being.
The opening ceremony involved a parade down Main Street. The largest flag ever was held aloft by community members. Behind them members of the military, fire department, emergency personnel and more. Together we all joined hands, moved the flag from the street to the park, held it safely as they connected it to the flag pole and raised it high into the late afternoon sky. I do not consider myself a “patriotic” person and yet I felt the enormity of the moment as the flag was raised honoring this event which honors the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States and the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who are serving, have served, or lost their lives while serving in the war on terror. The energy as all stood, said the pledge of allegiance, was palpable–love, compassion, commitment, presence, sorrow and joy.
Several hundred hikers left at 7 am the following morning, moving at their own speed up the steep terrain. Every 3 or 4 miles volunteers offered drinks, food, comfort, encouragement. The sheer number of people spending their Saturday supporting our mission, being part of the process not just literally but emotionally was immense.
When we reached the halfway mark, we were cheered with purple pom poms, a dance, a father celebrating our success and the fact that his daughter was flying home from boot camp that afternoon and was soon to be deployed to Afghanistan. We signed a welcome home banner adding our congrats to her achievement.
At the finish line we were greeted with a special medal signifying our accomplishment, photos, hugs, and more. The sense of having made it washed through me, motivated me to hike the final, though optional, actual summit.
We spent several hours on Mt Grant, simply watching other hikers cross the finish line, including way late in the day, a young boy (perhaps age 7 or 8) who was exhausted and yet proud of himself. The staff at the top declared him the “poster boy” for all the upcoming newsletters, media and so forth. He actually ran from the finish line to the pick up truck where volunteers were offering peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!
Being part of the “scene”, absorbing feelings of amazement, success, while holding onto the reality that, yes, we did it, one step at a time, reminded me of how grateful I am when I allow myself to let life live me rather than me living it. When I step in sync with what is, rather than trying to control and manipulate what is happening to gain what I think I want, I enter the simplicity of a flow that feels natural, a current that guides me, contains me, supports me.
At the end of the day, walking through town I saw some artwork, a saying that summarized my experience that day. It stated what I felt during the day and for the most part most everyday . . . it is in changing that we find purpose . . . paradise can be created wherever you are when you look at the world with gratitude and humor . . . when we ask what can I give today . . . how can I be courageous today . .. how can I love fully today . . .
Writing this post, I sense my heart is open, my soul calm, my spirit fulfilled, my being immersed in the gratitude for all that is here and now, in this moment, and for all who have given and continue to give their life, their liberty, their freedom to protect all of us, all over the world.