In this piece I will explain psychological importance of mountains and the mechanism by which it kills ego and purifies the soul. But first we need to know the enemy.
Ego is natural
Freudian notion of ego is reality. However today “ego” is usually mentioned when speaking of our negative side. As we progress through life, we obtain habits, character traits that we aren’t happy about. I’m prone to think this is what we call “ego” – the sum of our flaws.
On the contrary, I feel like over time Soul, which should stand in opposition of Ego, gets entangled in egocentristic games and we loose touch with something of divine value.
Growth of Ego
The birth of ego and its growth is an automated subconscious process during our interaction with outside world. It takes care of our self-image in the eyes of others and most importantly – preservation of this image. Circumstances change and often we lag to adapt. Which means maintaining the image in the eyes of others often results in internal deceit. It’s easier to lie, than to change. Therefore, as a result of interacting with outside world we poison the soul. I have previously covered this claiming it’s healthy once in a while to call yourself a fool.
This method to reset your self-image however is on the intellectual – theoretical level. What I am conveying today is a practical aspect and thus most effective way to fight ego.
Importance of Travel
I noticed, that in each of my getaways abroad I get a reset on my perception of things. I look through the train’s window: piles of pebble, some trash, a vast landscape of water deprived ground and there’s a palm tree in a second-lasting moment of sun setting right through it’s long branches. A thought passes through my mind:
God this was so beautiful! We don’t have palms in Lithuania
Does scarcity implies value? I don’t know. But what I am sure: during the travel, our perceptual senses are heightened and we consume details of environment at different scale. It’s easy to back up this statement.
In home environment, we had automated most of the tasks: driving back and forth to work, morning, evening routines, eating at those 4-6 places during lunch break. Brain aparatus is an efficient mdfka. If it doesn’t threat you – it has no importance – DNA commands.
Following these bodily guidelines we miss huge time. C. G. Jung had an idea:
Modern men cannot find God because they will not look low enough
But travel reminds us. When we strip out routines, new environment, stimuli, foods, people, views, nature, everything for that matter – contribute to heightened awareness, perception, which contributes to generation of new neural pathways. Atlantic covered the study of relationship between innovation and time abroad:
researchers found a clear correlation between time spent abroad and creative output: The brands whose creative directors had lived and worked in other countries produced more consistently creative fashion lines than those whose directors had not.
Awe in the Mountains
This above mentioned openness and attention to details takes a new level when hiking in the mountains. Mountains are big. They are enormous in their size actually. They are so huge, that it really takes time to put things in perspective.
Say you hiked for the whole day. You increased your elevation by 1500 meters and you have covered the distance of 25km on the map. You sit there all exhausted at the mountain refuge and set the sun into the snowy peaks around it. At this very point you have an opportunity to give in to the nature and purify your mind:
You are a dust on this vast and rich world of ours. No matter what business you own, how much money or influence you have. You might have forgotten who’s the boss. In the words of Marshall Mcluhan:
There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew. Marshall Mcluhan
After all, you will be a dust. And while you still have a chance to breathe and see this otherworldly beauty, stay humble. You are nothing compared to these giants. When you embody this experience at the site, you immediately the best in you shines through. Dropping an ego is like dropping a weight you are carrying around. It’s uplifting.
Ever wondered why people go on Camino de Santiago? Hiking mountains fundamentally have the same mission. Intense work, especially in nature yields fruits that modern man can not obtain in office and city life anymore. Depending on the route and destination you set, you might be hiking for two or even more days. This demands work put in. On the second day muscles will alert of unusual load. Nevertheless rewards far exceeds the temporary pain. Rewards aren’t physical anyway.
You never conquer the mountain, you only conquer yourself. Jim Whitaker
Symbolism of Mountain
Vision is a virtue. To see and understand – is to gain Wisdom. Climbing up the mountain increases the range of vision and is symbolically linked to spiritual rising, higher/better understanding. The more visibility you might want to acquire, the higher you must go, therefore the more effort must be put in. More on this side of the mountains, check Maps of Meaning lectures.
Mountains are a sustainable psychedelic. Being among the vast mountain ranges inspires awe, kills your ego and purifies the soul. Next time you plan your holiday, consider swapping the sunny beach and 4 star hotel for something more demanding. The present awaits at the top. It is something that can not be put into words, nor the pictures.
Great things are done when men and mountains meet. William Blake