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Not what, but how

And one day you'll come to see that the point isn't to arrive at some goal, but to be engaged in the process of getting somewhere, or doing some thing.

Many years ago I took a friend, who was a salesperson in the outdoor industry, up their first real mountain, a north face in the Canadian Rockies. Once we were high enough where I thought the next pitch would get us to the top, I sent them up on lead (easy ground, but the clouds had dropped in). They disappeared into the whiteness of the alpine terrain, their bright yellow jacket slowly blurring into the seamless fog. The rope slid steadily through my hands as they moved upward, the minutes ticked by. Then the rope stopped moving.

I waited. No word, no tug. I yelled up. No word. After some time I decided to go up and find them.

As I climbed I kept yelling up through the ubiquitous white, hoping to hear a reply. Finally I heard back, "DON'T COME UP HERE"! I continued up anyway, hoping I would soon be able to see the situation. A few minutes later I saw them, crouched near the summit ridge, looking somewhat unsettled.

"What's going on"? I asked.

"Don't come up! There's nothing up here, it just drops off"!

And that it did, as do most mountains.

In life, like in climbing mountains, we often imagine that our goals will be a nice big flat spot on which we can stand and survey the glory of our achievement. But in reality, the summit is often just a vague way-point, socked in by weather, that you don't spend much time at, or even get to revel in the glory of. You just have to move on, and keep going. The joy and reward are in the doing, not the completing.

Zen kōan, "Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water."

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