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Climbing Literal and Figurative Mountains -- A True Dream Story

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After talking about this for over a week, tomorrow we'll be waking up at two in the morning to begin our trek to the summit of Cerro Ishinca, maxing out at 18,140 feet of vertical challenge in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru. This is a new experience for me, a new challenge, a new activity. I've never been mountaineering, unsupported; I'm talking crampons, ice axes, harnesses so that we can be tethered together by rope... things we will actually need to use, not party favors of a coordinated tour given to us to contrive an authentic mountaineering experience. Doing new things makes me feel so alive... the endless opportunity to discover and learn resonates deep within me in that same place that knows well that there is always more to discover and experience within my unique self. Every embraced opportunity to try something new, will directly result in the opening up of something new within me... endless unique experiences, endless me.

I remember the feeling of reaching the top of other mountains, the triumph and the beauty and the aliveness that a summit brings. In those moments, anything feels possible because something has just become possible. I get that experience of "knowing," which is when I get to feel something that I previously just believed. I once saw a bumper sticker on the back of a truck in Brazil that said, "Be alive your whole life." When I choose to do something I know I love, like climbing a new mountain with all of its unknowns and challenges and surprises that it will present me, I feel like I'm doing just that.

We have already paid for the equipment and our anticipation has been building as we scoured maps and weather reports and asked for advice on which route to take. I felt like such a bad ass before we even left town and even more so as the van we're in weaves its way up dusty switchbacks for hours to the patch of land where we'll begin. We're actually using the words "crevasse" and "col" in sentences referring to our trek, words I'd previously read or heard in the likes of Everest documentaries. It will be the highest altitude I've ever been. I want to do this. I crave the challenge. I'm in love with my trekking partner, literally. We've hiked up to base camp around 14,000 feet and it is gorgeous. Our tent is up against a towering rock wall to block some wind and just a short distance to a milky turquoise stream that is doing its part to sooth some of my fears. There are glacier capped peaks checking us out from above and a few colorful tents of fellow mountaineers.

Even being here would be enough; a new, beautiful, challenging trek in the Peruvian Andes. But we have a bigger goal in mind. My nerves and doubts keep me awake and they just grow as I try to relax and conserve my energy that I know I'll need. I keep coughing and sneezing, trying to breathe against the best efforts of my cold and the thin air to stop me. I won't be at my best tomorrow, but I strain for some deep sleep to make me the tiniest bit more prepared. There's the added pressure of my partner's elevated level of fitness and whether I'd admit it then or not, my desire to impress him. The relentless beeping of the alarm mocks my exhaustion, alerting me that summit day has arrived.

That night I had had a dream that I am following my partner up Cerro Ishinca and I lose him. In the dream, there is not disappointment or fear. There is relief. Now I have an excuse for not climbing the mountain because of something that is outside of my control. I run into an old friend who I've lost contact with and she tells me that her husband and his friends were also going to be climbing Ishinca, but couldn't because of weather. More relief, another excuse for not climbing the mountain that is out of my control. "I didn't not summit because I didn't try. It just wasn't in the cards for me," I tell myself. I still can have some glory from the intent to summit. My friend who I've run into wasn't even going to try.

Lesson from a mountain... this will not be the first or last time I get one of those, nor the first or last time that I can tap into a dream to discover something that is stewing around in my subconscious.

In this dream, I recognize that my partner is my love and therefore represents where my soul is being guided to go, what Jungian psychologists would call the animas. (or anima if my love had been a woman guiding my soul). I lose him, which could directly translate into losing my soul path, straying from my true nature or missing, losing, denying some part of me that should rather be embraced, received, or learned as part of what makes me, me.

I look to the roles and symbols in the rest of the dream to give me information about where I might be diverging from my journey (represented as losing my partner in the dream) and what fears or excuses are present that I am not facing (represented as not facing the mountain in the dream). After some time thinking about the qualities that the old friend represents for me, it starts to resonate that she represents an old habit. The habit is the behavior of letting myself mistake a feeling or emotion I am experiencing as out of my control and permission for staying stuck. Often it's not a matter of control, it's a matter of making a choice, dealing with unknowns, and committing to action. A reason that my waking-life partner was my animas in this dream is because in waking life he has taught me that rarely is there not a way to do something that you really want to do. When I give energy to the fear sensation, I hand over control to my excuses and get off track.

With that, I reflect on my life right now (circa September 2013). I have landed myself in Huaraz, Peru about to climb this mountain in the midst of my personal transformation journey, a journey not to find myself necessarily, but to fully be my truly unique self, my path of individuation. I've been wandering South America for 9 months now, observing everything I encounter through the lens of "What makes me unique? What makes me really come alive? What do I care about? When am I happiest and healthiest? How do I design my life around these things, so that I am giving my essence to myself and to others in any given situation?" I now take the learning from this dream as a new tool, to notice when I am handing over control to a fear and making an excuse.

There is always something new to be learned from a dream. A dream will not show up to say, "hey, don't climb that mountain" to keep you small. If I had worked with the dream and come to the result that this meant that I should not climb the mountain, I'd be missing the much larger life learning that was available to me and I would have missed the coolest thing I have ever done. I knew I would do everything in my power to reach the summit. And I know I will do everything in my power to overcome all obstacles to reach the summit of my personal transformation journey.

This is an excerpt from the book that I am writing. Go to to stay connected through the process of this book coming to fruition.