A Reminder that Everything Counts

Here in America, Thanksgiving has just passed and we are moving into our big end of year holiday season. This is a time for us to give thanks for those things that we have. Yet this season it takes an even deeper meaning based upon a conversation I had with one of associates. An incredible woman by the name of Laurel.

She gave me a perspective that shifted my view ever so slightly, but profoundly, and I want to pass it on to you. Not long ago she was told by her doctors that she had a rare and nasty cancer deep in her abdomen. She realized that she had a choice to make. One was to be terrified and depressed knowing that the prognosis was not good… a justifiable response. Yet in the face of this horrible situation she said she saw it as a gift.

Why a gift? She said that God, the Universe or whatever had given her, with this terrible news, a membership to a very elite club. A club consisting of a small and rare group of individuals who, unlike most of us, now has the presence and focus to soak in every sunset, sense every breeze that wafts by her cheek, notices and relishes every inflection, nuance and expression in even the smallest of things and yes… savors every breath. Life for her instantly jumped to a whole new level of appreciation and gratitude. Everything counts!

(You should know that she also decided to not only face the demon, but wrestle it to the ground…which she is doing.)

What Laurel pointed out is that the things that we have always had are even the most precious. In speaking with her, it became my commitment for me and my hope for all of you to be present with the preciousness of the most amazing things we have.

It should not take a catastrophic event, diagnosis or situation to get us to appreciate what we have or what we have lost.

This Thanksgiving and beyond, I am grateful for each breath, smile, tear, emotion and touch that envelopes my life. In my daily gratitude process I am grateful for honor, integrity, love and abundance.

I am grateful for all of you whose intentions, dreams and actions precessionally raise the consciousness and well-being of millions around you and who have touched my life in so many ways. I am grateful to have been able to teach you, know you, inspire you, learn from you and to be moved by you. I am grateful for the trust you have given to allow me to do these things.

It is my wish for you that every moment brings you closer to your dreams and that, as Laurel says, we all become members of that elite club that savors every bit of life force we have and share.

Most of all….thank you for being YOU!

Love,

Blair

The Mission to Kilimanjaro…

Recently my 16 year old son and I went on an adventure to Tanzania to experience two things together: To join a team to work a few days in an orphanage and school for blind and albino children, and to climb Kilimanjaro, the largest free-standing mountain in the world.

We did this under the leadership of K2 Adventures, an organization who for the last five years has helped these children by providing health care, dental care, educational facilities, clothing and hope through part of the dollars spent on taking expeditions to the summit of Kilimanjaro.

The two days of work with the children was gut wrenching, heart-warming and life changing. Many of these children are kids that their society has given up on, persecuted against or are kids who are simply born into complete poverty. My son and I walked away from that experience touched and committed to giving whatever we can to continue supporting them.

During the work day at the school, the peak of Kilimanjaro emerged from the clouds to come into view for the first time. It took our breath away. Talk about intimidating!!!! But our expedition leaders who have done the trek many times assured us… We would just take it very slowly, one step at a time, one day at a time.

Certainly this was going to be the largest physical and psychological challenge of my life so far. I was nervous, but knew that my physical and mental conditioning would get me through. Little did I know that the mountain would issue me a challenge that I had never anticipated.

On day one of the climb, our team hiked from about 6300 feet to about 10,000 feet. As we reached our first campsite, spirits were high, we were feeling strong and the sharp snow-capped peak of Kili looming over us somehow did not seem as intimidating.

The porters had set up camp and prepared dinner as darkness settled over the giant mountain. The white glacier at the peak glistened like a huge white diamond in the near full moonlight. I swear I could touch the Milky Way.

We snuggled into our sleeping bags and quickly fell asleep. Sometime around 1 AM, I heard Ben get up, struggling to get out of the tent. Before I knew what was happening, he got outrageously sick, vomiting for all he was worth. With help, we cleaned up the tent, got him settled down and he fell back to sleep.

However the next morning, he was not better. Still sick and now cold, we warmed him up, gave him medication to ease his system, but as we attempted to continue our climb, he was very weak. Not willing to give up, he went slow with one of our guides, but still getting weaker. We had climbed another 3-400 feet and I was toward the front of our team when the radio call came that the team leader and myself should come back to assist Ben. We hiked down a hundred feet or so to where he was sitting. We urged him to keep going and assured him if he could get through this day of climbing, whatever bug he had contracted would be out of his system and he would be fine.

He climbed for about 5 minutes and got sick again. After another rest, he climbed again and got sick again, vomiting only the water he had just drunk. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and shook his head. He said, “Dad… I can’t do it. I just want to go home!” I had to stand behind him to keep him from falling down the mountain.

It was at this point that I got one of the biggest lessons of my life. It was not the lesson I thought Kili was going to throw at me, but one even more powerful. Clearly he had to go back down the mountain. His physical state was so depleted that I was worried about him. A guide would take him down and to a clinic where he could get checked out and then to a hotel to wait for the rest of us to complete the climb and descend in six more days.

I was now faced with a decision. Continue the climb without him and summit this monster and achieve the obvious goal of summiting Kili, or descend with him. I have to admit, in the moment it was a tough decision. Yet the thought of leaving my son in this state, in a strange country, seemed equally as unacceptable as not summiting the mountain.

I kicked the dirt. I remember looking out over the clouds that were now below us. I will never forget the moment when I looked deep inside, looked into the eyes of my weakening son and remembered our mission: To conquer this mountain together. Mission first and individual needs third. My personal desire to summit would have to be secondary to the mission and to he and I as a team. I also immediately recalled my Code of Honor that says, “Never abandon a team-mate in need.” He was clearly in need.

You see, I teach about mission, team, Code and Little Voice. I never thought that Kili would put me to the test in a way that was 180 degrees to the way I normally operate.

The decision was now clear. I looked into his bleary eyes and said, “We started this together, we finish this together.” I turned to our team leader and said, “I will go down with him and make sure he is okay.”

What happened after that was something that I did not expect. You see, I am a person who is always ‘taking the challenge,’ conquering odds, pushing boundaries. I hate to fail and I hate to not be in control of my own fate. Sound familiar? Summiting that mountain would have been one of the most difficult things I have ever done… but I would get it done somehow. However to turn back… to consciously decide NOT to push my boundaries again, was a whole new experience for me. It was a very new and different boundary.

While part of me was tormented by taking myself out of the game, simultaneously a very strange peace came over me. A peace of having followed my own rules, surrendered to a Code that was designed to bring my family and team closer.

In the four and a half hours it took to get down from there, I supported, encouraged and just loved my son each step of the way. Once in the van, he passed out for the one hour ride to the small, third world, neighborhood, four bed clinic. That night I lay in a bed next to him as he lay unconscious (passed out) for nearly 16 hours. I lay there watching my precious son and the needed fluids dripping back into his body.

Somehow I drifted off to sleep and was awakened at day break by a local rooster somewhere close by. As I opened my eyes, I looked over in time to see him open his. He smiled weakly and passed off to sleep again.

It’s one thing to say that you will always be there for someone or to say you really love them or to extoll the virtues of a relationship. But somehow, somewhere just below the snows of Kilimanjaro, I connected with my son at a level that not only gave me great peace, but that put my priorities, my life’s work and my spirit to the test.

That mountain will always be there. But the window to really connect with someone near and dear to you can be evasive. I thank K2 Adventures, I thank the incredible porters and leaders of our team, I thank my teachers and I thank the great lessons that I have learned that led me to that incredible decision on the side of the mountain. I thank Kili for its majesty and for giving me one of the greatest gifts of my life.

Most important, I thank God and the Universe for a thing called love that conquers any mountain.