What It’s Like To Approach The Same Race In A New Way

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Since 2013 I’ve participated in the MS Society’s Climb to the Top, trekking up 66 flights of stairs to the observation deck that provides some of the best views of the Empire State Building, Central Park, and the island of Manhattan. Thanks to the loving support of my family and friends, I’ve raised more and more money for the fight against MS every year. But that’s not to say the stair climbing itself gets any easier. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

As many of you know, I’m going through one of the more existential transitions in my life, and while it comes with long periods of meditation and beautiful bouts of clarity, it also reveals just how many things I view differently than I once did and how many things are no longer a priority for me. Racing used to be one of my favorite things. I loved the physical challenge, the mental competition with my fellow man, the rushed feeling of accomplishment at the finish line. I lived for it, and if I’m being honest, ran myself into the ground (literally) several times in pursuit of that experience. But now as I seek calm and truth and prepare to begin my new yoga journey tomorrow that will help me solidify these values, I found I took to the climb a bit differently.

I didn’t even consider bringing my headphones or creative my standard pump-up playlist to carry me up those stairs. I didn’t want the distraction from the present moment.

I didn’t immediately start running, taking the stairs two at a time, to pass as many people as I could before my legs reached the Jell-O stage and insisted on walking. I took the pace my body wanted and smiled at every other climber and volunteer I encountered in that stairwell, thanking them for spending their Sunday morning in this way with me.

When I jogged, I remained mindful of how my body felt in each step, how my lungs burned in the dry, hot air.

When I walked, I took the time to read all of the motivational signs volunteers posted in the stairwell, and all of the names of the top fundraisers who ultimately make the event so successful.

When I reached the top, I didn’t sprint across the finish line. I smiled, took a breath, and enjoyed the spectacularly blue view that was the New York skyline at 8 a.m. on this frigid morning. And I happily stood in that cold until each of my teammates crossed that finish line, all with beaming smiles on their faces as well.

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Today I reconnected with the truth that the race itself doesn’t have to be the focal point of my climbing experience. It can be the genuine people I get to share it with, it can be the way the city makes me feel when I see it from this particular vantage point, it can be knowing that I let myself remain present for all highs and lows of that period of time (I didn’t even look up my completion time so I have no idea how long it took). It really can be whatever you choose to be.

I challenge all of you today to identify one event or experience you tend to approach in the same way time after time, and just once, see if you can mindfully live it in a slightly different way. See what new details you notice, what new feelings flood your heart, how the outcome of that experience ultimately changes. Just see what happens.

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