Yesterday in the early evening I went hiking and climbing for a few hours by myself in the big red rocks above town. I climbed up further then I've ever been.
I stopped at a red rock plateau way above the town - what a view of Sedona! I could see all the way to Court House Rock. I felt something pushing me to go further--so up I went - the degree of steepness and danger increased with each 1O meters. I was scrambling on a lot of loose rocks which were unstable. I hesitated for a moment but then as always I kept following that gut feeling that has served me so well and kept climbing. I could see that I was nearing a towering red rock face--something kept pulling me towards it.
When I got to the cliff face, I sat down and went into that place of stillness, trusting that there was something that Spirit wanted me to feel or see. After about five minutes nothing came and then I felt inside it was time to descend. I wondered what this inner guidance was all about. As you can probably tell this is a very dangerous place (I would never take clients here - no worries!)
The decent was steep and again a lot of unstable little rocks underfoot. I felt myself being pulled to the left and questioned briefly if that's why I was drawn to the cliff face. I would not have descended this way but it was only 100 feet from the way I had come up. So I went down and down - always being very careful - talking to myself, "Easy Greg, careful, stay focused".
I stopped to get some water and looked around. The area I was standing in looked totally unfamiliar and I could not see the way I had come up. As I climb I always make sure I can retreat on the same line. I didn't see that line! So I could be descended into a cliff drop! A wave of fear ran through my body and I could feel that sinking feeling on the edge of my emotions, ready to sweep in. Having hiked a lot off-trail in the Sedona area, I know how easily you can get yourself into serious trouble very fast. 50 ft cliff drops have a way of appearing out of nowhere.
My experience hiking off-trail has taught me a great deal and it really served me well on this beautiful Sedona evening. Now instead of panicking, I sat still for a few moments and do what all good climbers and hikers should do: situation assessment and equipment inventory. I had about 1 hour max until twilight set in and enough water for at least three hours plus cell phone that was operational. I just went quieter listening for my inner guidance. After a few moments it guided me to explore the line of descent I was making another a few hundred meters and if nothing appeared to show me a clear way down I would back-track to the cliff face. The fear inside me has eased considerably. I made sure I greeted the little plants along the descent, "A Ho, brothers, A Ho sisters..." Always remembering--if you honor them, they will honor you.
I kept talking to myself as I took one step at a time over the unstable gravel and pebbles, "Easy, brother, one step at a time..." When I got to the distance I had marked, I could see that the topography (finally got to use this word!) appeared to be transitioning into the base of the mountain. Let me stress the word "appeared". It's not always as it looks. But my inner guidance said go for it and I did. Within about ten minutes I was safely down at the base!
I was unsure of how far I was from the trail head I had veered off to start the climb but I knew it was the in "that" direction. Again first stopping to check how much light I had left and to make sure every 500 meters I was heading the right way, not getting over confident. After about 20 minutes I found the trail and stopped and offered my deepest thanks to the Old Ones and the Rock and Plant People for watching over me.
Why tell this story? I have seen this kind of scenarios end up badly. I saw clearly how I didn't let fear get me un-centered. I felt the fear and didn't try and run from it. I let it motivate me to slow down and quiet down even more than I was. I gave my experience a chance to form itself. I was patient and did not get ahead of myself. And I was grateful for my experience to lead me down the mountain safely. I saw that I have truly learned something over the years and was proud of myself.
Ultimately, I was grateful that I followed my inner guidance to climb as high as I did - I wouldn't have learned as much about myself and trust and using emotions if I hadn't.
That's part of living here in the Magic Kingdom - you never quite know what a little early evening stroll will bring!
Gregory Drambour is the author of The Woodstock Bridge the well-acclaimed book about Native American Spirituality. He is your guide on your Sedona Retreat! He owns Sedona Sacred Journeys, a spiritual retreat center in Sedona, Arizona