By Allison Regester
November 19, 2019

Last week, I decided to take a trip up to Mount San Antonio, otherwise known by locals as Mount Baldy. Standing at 10,140 feet, this dramatic peak is a mountaineer’s dream of alpine wilderness, icy mountain waterfalls, and breathtaking panoramic views of the San Gabriel Mountain Range. 

There are several route options to summit, but my chosen route was called the Devil’s Backbone. This name gives you a clue into the difficulty of the trail. After climbing over 3,000 feet of elevation, you come to a ridgeline known as ‘the backbone’ which is a steep and narrow path. Only about 2 feet wide, with dramatic drop-offs on either side of the trail, you pray for no wind! After braving the backbone, it is a steep ascent of another 1,000 feet to the summit. 

“The Devil’s Backbone”

Several times during this hike, self-doubt came into my consciousness. Doubt that I did not have the will and strength to complete the summit; and justification that I could come back and try another day. At one moment I even looked around and thought, “how much better could the view from the summit be? This view seems good enough.” 

View from summit

Well, let me tell you, the viewpoint from the summit was incredible. But even more than that, my level of consciousness was transformed! At 1,000 feet below the summit, I felt small, insignificant to complete the challenge at hand. But once I had raised my energy to meet the challenge, no longer did it seem like a challenge, instead, an opportunity for expansion and growth. When we rise to meet the opportunities that are given to us, we grow and the ‘problems’ seem to become less unattainable. Swami Kriyananda wrote, the greatest yoga posture is the one that plants us on our own two feet. 

God never gives us more than we have the strength to face, but we must do our part; putting one foot in front of the other to meet our tests, and to always remember that we have the grace of the guru to guide us along the journey. The last half mile of my climb, I began chanting “Jai Guru.” A wave of strength, not of my own, took over my body; each step became lighter and my breath more relaxed. The last few strides, I was filled with greater strength and energy than when I first began the hike. Looking out over the panoramic view, I could see the trail below me. No longer did the journey feel too great for me to climb; I had conquered much more than the physical mountain that day.

Each week, at Sunday Service, we celebrate the Festival of Light, which portrays the story of a small bird afraid to fly in the darkness. Counsel comes, “Behold, your very strength to fly has never been your own. Look to the source of all power, if you would conquer fear and weakness.” When we go within to find our source of inner strength, we go beyond the little self and begin to realize our divine nature. A nature, strengthened in the Divine. 

I will leave you with this quote a dear friend told me once when I was going through deep karmic tests, ‘’You have set yourself the physical challenges of hikes and climbs, and now you are embarking on the inner challenge of claiming your spine as your own. Be free in yourself. Be free, ever free.’’