In the high country of the mind one has to become adjusted to the thinner air of uncertainty. – Robert M. Pirsig, in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”
There are two kinds of high country: mountains and meditation. When you climb a mountain, you experience euphoria at the summit even though your dead dog tired and may only have very little time to spend a few precious moments there. This is physical and mental transcendence.
When you meditate and slow your brainwaves to an alpha level, you reach mental heights that are often inaccessible when you’re working, commuting, and cleaning up the house. You are in an altered state without the physical danger of physical mountains, exhaustion, or high altitude sickness. Nonetheless, the euphoria is just as real as what you experience on a mountaintop.
While within this euphoric state, we know many things and understand deep in our souls that we are without limits. What powerful moments. The challenge, whether you have climbed a physical mountain or taken a transcendent mental trip is to avoid relapsing to mundane goals and fears when you return to level ground.
The euphoria is like a drug that slowly wears off; the feeling vanishes day by day as the slings and arrows of the temporal world slink back into your thining. The best medicine is climbing another mountain or meditating into the places where the air is thinner and facts and images become less certain.
You can stand upon mountain tops in your meditating, whether you imagine yourself to be there or take a shamanic journey higher and higher into the thin air of dreams. When you return, your friends may think you’re on drugs when, in fact, you’ve had an experience with no equal.
The euphoria is not, however, like being high on drugs. It’s more of a realization of who you truly are and what is truly within yourself. As we used to say years ago, you are at one with the universe. That’s better than fame or money or even your favorite wine.
Before my knees and ankles turned to dust, I loved Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks. Now, I’m exhausted climbing the flimsy drop-down stairway into the attic. I prefer mountains over meditation, so age has cramped my style. And yet, meditation still takes me to these summits where I see heaven and earth combined.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Mountain Song,” set in Glacier Park Mountana.