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Monthly Archives: May 2014

Old Rag Sunrise Panoramic


I have the aspiration to climb Old Rag Mountain, the highest peak in the Shenandoah National Park with my son and granddaughter at the end of this month.  I haven’t climbed it for many years due to arthritis and the notion that I might be too old (70’s) and unable to do it.  My son and I climbed up to the top one beautiful morning the year he was leaving for college to do a “departure ceremony.”  We would like to re-enact that event with his teenage daughter as they depart to live abroad and to show her our very special spot in the clouds.

I visited an orthopedic surgeon who agrees that my years of daily Qi Gong, exercise at the Y, swimming and walking have improved my arthritis condition.  A complete reversal of the notion that once you have the disease, it’s “all downhill” with health, mobility and mountain climbing!  But to be in shape, I need to do more hill walking, lose weight and build stamina in the next few weeks.  I’ll need your help, support and encouragement to pass up that cookie, get outdoors every day in my new hiking shoes and to attract all the positive spring energy in the Universe.

I am also employing the affirmations that we teach on our women’s retreats, writing it 10 times for 21 days:

“Quan The Am is infusing my body with health and strength to climb Old Rag.”

Quan The Am is the Vietnamese Goddess of Compassion (a version of Avalokiteshvara) who is depicted on the holograph I wear, a gift from a monk who lives at the top of the mountain outside Hanoi I climbed with Thich Nhat Hanh on his historic return to his country in 2005 after 39 years of exile. It was very difficult for me (and probably for a monk near 80 too), but I had the help of a young Vietnamese man who took me under his wing, pulling, letting me lean on him (as is the custom when a young man sees an older woman in need of help, treating her as he would his mother).  When we made it to the top of Yen Te Mountain, we had tea with the monk and received his gifts.  I wear the holograph of Quan The Am regularly and invoke her spirit whenever I face a mountain that seems daunting, whether a physical feat, overwhelming task or feelings that seem insurmountable.   If I could climb Yen Te with the help of a sweet young stranger and the energy of thousands of other climbers, including my teacher, I can do almost anything!  Not alone, not as a separate self, but with the energy and love of my sangha, my son and beloved granddaughter.