Four years ago I had an opportunity to travel to Tibet. I would have gone with a team of students as well as professors from Plattsburgh State University.
The trip would have lasted four weeks from beginning to end. I passed on the trip and for several weeks danced with feelings of sadness. I held onto much regret. The decision was not a financial decision other than the job which supported my family would more than likely no longer be mine. I was told by many people “I shouldn’t be gone that long.” The reasons varied. I succumbed to the reasons of others and forced myself to believe their truth.
I struggled in silence with this decision for months. My Buddhist training has taught me to let go of such desires as it is these desires which are the root cause of suffering or dukkha.
As time passed and the start of the trip came and went, the desire and self-punishment I inflicted waned. From time to time I thought of my friends on their trip and new I would meet with them in the coming months after they returned. I braced myself for what would be a whirlwind of feelings and used my Buddhist teachings to let go of the things which were outside my realm of control.
Two weeks ago I began to read the story of the “Cancer Climber”, Sean Swarner. Sean wrote a book after being diagnosed with two different cancers and being told he had just “six-weeks to live.” Sean’s book is titled, “Keep Climbing.” Sean went on to climb the seven highest peaks in the world…with one lung.
As I read Sean’s story, I arrived at the point where he began to describe his trip to the Himalayas in preparation to climb the world’s highest peak. As I read Sean’s description my thoughts raced back to the trip I did not attend to this same area. Tears came to my eyes and I knew such a trip was nowhere on my horizon.
I feel compelled to share Sean’s thoughts about the area. “I think it’s impossible to visit Nepal and come back the same person you were when you left. One thing I learned was that life is life. There is no real need for jealousy or greed. It was great knowing I was okay in the middle of nowhere and could manage anywhere. All someone really needs to make it is faith, a smile, and some fun. Too many people in the U.S. are wrapped up in making money and trying to get ahead of someone else, usually at the other person’s expense. It’s ridiculous not to live happily with what you have, enjoying the fact that you have that day and your health. I think too many people take that for granted. I realized in the Himalaya’s, yet again, how lucky I was to be alive. I think everyone should take into consideration how lucky they truly are. This place, this trek was a reminder of that for me.”
Sean says, “There’s a huge difference between being alive and living.” I watch so many people complain about what amounts to the silliest things and they fail to see the things in their life for which if they would only take the time, would realize are what offers true happiness.
Thank you Sean for your inspiration!
There isn’t much else to say…the answers are right in front of us if we are willing to open our eyes and see them.
Thanks for reading.