February 19, 2015 by
Photography by Beverly Kracher, Ph.D.

Bhima, our guide, waited for us on the trail. We caught up to her after stopping to adjust our daypacks and enjoying some wild berries. Under her umbrella, which protected her from the burning sun, we could see Bhima’s smiling face and playful eyes. She quickly evaluated our moods and stamina. She said to us, for probably the 30th time, “Not far to go before we get to the next tea house. A little bit up, a little bit down.”

Bhima was coaching us. Though it was probably another hour before we reached our stopping point, she was saying the thing we needed to hear to make it.

“A little bit up, a little bit down.” Those words have had a forceful affect on my life since returning from this year’s trek. I was in the Annapurna Range of the Himalaya Mountains in Nepal. Hikers have tried to describe the magnificence of this massive range—the raw beauty, the incredible scenery, the water buffalo, and the orange/yellow sunsets over the snowcapped mountains.

Try as we might, it is impossible. You have to go there on your own to know what Nirvana is like.

This was my second trek. The first was so powerful that I knew I had to come back with my sister. Barb and I had poured over books about the yogis and sadhus in India and Nepal when we were kids. We were inspired by their quest for spiritual enlightenment in the Himalayas. So this time I was with Barb. Her husband, Joel, came with us because he loves to explore life, too.

We hired 3Sisters Adventure Trekking Company for our trek. Three Nepalese sisters own the company and provide jobs to Nepalese women by hiring and training them as guides and porters. Walking through the majestic mountains with four Nepalese women (one guide and three porters) brought the heavens to earth. As we walked, we learned about their quest for opportunity, education, family, and freedom. I found, as I always do when I travel, that while people dress differently and have different customs, we basically desire the same things. In this, we are one race.

While trekking, Bhima showed us the way yogis and sadhus walk. The technique is two-fold. First, they take it easy. They are the tortoises not the hare. Second, they use a lower-body relaxation technique. As they hike up a mountain they rest their back leg as they push off with their front leg. Continuous movement creates stress, so relaxing the back leg, even for a second, reduces tension and increases power. In these two ways, Bhima taught us to pace ourselves and to use our legs in a way that would allow us to walk twelve hours a day.

A little bit up, a little bit down.

Since my return I have learned to pace my life just as I paced my steps up the steepest and longest trails I have ever encountered. The temptation was great to fall back into my hectic work life.

When I think about this it’s like listening to a sad song.

The beauty of the Himalayas are still with me. I can very easily feel the peace anytime I try. I know that is good for my heart. And there is one more thing. I carry a joyful, even enlightened, attitude where I see the ebb and flow of life as “a little bit up, a little bit down.”

I can be my best and do my best. And that attitude makes me feel like I’m standing on top of the world.

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