Monday, January 08, 2007


My shaman - John - turned out to be very easygoing and fun. He'd been a psychology and music major in college, and as we drove out to Boynton Canyon, he talked about how he'd come to find himself in his current career.

When we got to the trail, he loaded himself up with a satchel and several musical instruments of varying sizes - including a didgeridoo. I remember carrying one of his drums and being a little worried about dropping it off a cliff.

"You seem pretty fit - do you like to hike? Are you scared of heights or anything?" he asked.
"Nah... I'm good with whatever," I replied.
"Good," he grinned. "We'll take the high road then."

The hike started out on an easy enough trail. We passed a formation John pointed out as the Kachina, and it was right about there that we left the path. We began climbing up over boulders and through trees, higher and higher. I wondered how (or if) it was even legal that we were going where we were - with no ropes or safety equipment.

Much of the red rocks are flat surface known as slick rock. If you put your feet just the right way, you can navigate it -- as long as you don't think too hard or look down. But I looked down. And I froze. We were on a ledge at the rim of the canyon, and suddenly I could not take another step.

The drum on my back was getting heavier as I stood there, holding onto the wall in front of me for dear life. Never before had I been so terrified. One wrong step and life as I knew it was over.

"Are you okay?" John asked. He'd made it to a larger ledge.
"I can't move," I told him.
"Yes you can. Just don't think about what's below you. Just see the ledge - it's a lot wider than it feels - and just step. Keep stepping."

I took a deep breath and changed my perspective. Tentatively, I took a step and then another. I slowly made it to where John was, my whole body shaking - coursing with adrenaline. Never had I felt so alive.

"See? You did it! You're like the Jersey Gazelle," he smirked.

We continued along the ledge and came upon an opening in the rock. John hoisted his gear through the hole, and then he climbed through. I did the same. We came out on the other side of the rock, amidst ruins.

We sat for a moment and caught our breath. I was still buzzing from the episode on the rim.

"Wild, huh? Kinda like a metaphor for life," John smiled.
"A situation comes up that can scare the shit out of us if we let it - it can seem impossible even. But if we change our perspective, we can overcome it."

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