How To Successfully Move Mountains

Sometimes I climb mountains. This year I summited three peaks over fourteen thousand feet tall, and that was just one day! It’s always an epic adventure, one that requires extensive planning, detailed map reading and constant route finding.

There’s the arduous work of surmounting obstacles and the disappointment of finding you’re on a false summit. There is extreme exposure, and so much effort just to put one foot in front of the other when you can barely breathe.


On the Thunderbolt to Sill traverse in the Sierra Nevada Palisades.

But with the effort comes the unfathomable position of being on top of the world. There’s nowhere to hide, and this is both the challenge and the beauty of it.

You gain a vista. You see where you’ve been and get a glimpse of where you’re going. You celebrate the beauty of your surroundings. You can’t help but let go of your personal story and feel connected to something vast and expansive.

But you’re also exposed to the elements —you squint into the blinding sun and hunch against the blasting wind. Your lungs burn while every drop of moisture is ripped from your parched lips. Feeling small and vulnerable is unavoidable.

Sometimes it feels like moving mountains.

Two miles over talus, just to gain the base of the climb.

Two miles over talus, just to gain the base of the climb, and yes, that’s smoke in the air.

When I push up against the jagged edge of an unhealthy habit or an old stuck mental tape, I know there’s a mountain that needs moving. When I feel lazy or depressed, but get on my yoga mat anyways, it’s like climbing a small mountain.

But after, in shavasana, I remember that momentum empowers transformation, and to make change requires dedicated effort over an extended period of time. The yoga sutras use the words abhyasa and anusthana for this. (sutras 1.12-1.16)

The former, according to BKS Iyengar, “…conveys a sense of mechanical repetition,” while the latter implies devotion and spiritual dedication. The process of climbing a mountain, whether real or metaphoric, involves a dance between both. 

When you move a mountain or climb to its summit, you mechanically repeat step after grueling step. You transport yourself to a new perspective; your spirit is moved and clarity is gained from pushing through when you most wanted to quit.

Spirit moved —contemplating the grandeur.

Spirit moved —contemplating the grandeur at basecamp after summiting.

Whether moving inner mountains, or climbing the peaks of the Sierras, there are ways to make the process easier. Here are a few I use:

Focus On One Task At A Time

When you have a huge amount of territory to cover—especially if you don’t want to get caught out in the dark—you have to keep moving. You have to commit to forward momentum, one task at a time.

It may not feel like you’re getting anywhere, but after an extended period, all those little tasks, every little step, will add up. Then, you’ll look back from the summit and see just how far you’ve come.


Coiling the rope at one of the highest points in the continental U.S.

Cultivate Rest, Even Within Movement

Sometimes you have to lie down and sleep, maybe for just a moment. Or maybe for what feels like an entire season.

Other times it’s impossible to stop. You’ll need to find a way to relax and find ease, or sukham, while moving. When you do, try these suggestions:

  • think of three things for which you’re grateful
  • focus on and deepen your breath
  • imagine the tension melting away and off your body
  • gaze at something beautiful, even if for a moment
  • use the minimum amount of effort needed to perform the task at hand
Taking a nap on the summit of North Palisade, at 14,249'

Napping on the summit of N. Palisade, at 14,249′

Celebrate the Mountain Tops

When you’re battling your way up a cliff face it’s easy to forget all the little victories you’ve had and all the skills you’ve learned to help you get where you are today.

Next time you find yourself on a summit, take it all in. Celebrate the effort. Celebrate the exposure. Enjoy the view. Be happy and proud of all your hard work.

Acknowledge all the challenges you’ve experienced and all the people who were there for you during them.

And then let it all go. Let go of the attachment to the outcome —some days you won’t even summit at all…


Celebrating the summit with Aaron.

Ask For Help —Going It Alone Is More Difficult And Scary.

When you’ve lost your way, or when you’ve temporarily lost yourself, a true friend can guide you back home. Friends can celebrate your victories with you.

They can be your cheerleaders and your hand holders. They can talk you out of the lies you’ve been believing —like, “I’m not good enough.” Or, “I can’t do that!”

But most importantly, sharing the journey with someone you trust means you gain a sense of belonging.

Opening up allows you to be supported and to know you’re not alone. Vulnerability is uncomfortable, but without it you never get the closeness you truly long to experience.

My husband getting ready to rappel down to me.

My husband getting ready to rappel down to me.