Summiting the Hills

Summiting the Hills

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On reaching a state of relief.

My version of running is a slow, steady pace, for 2-5 miles. When I start running, the first 10 minutes tends to be the hardest. It is hard because I am shifting my body and lungs into a new state – from slower and passive to active and aggressive. I am pushing all my physical elements to go. There is resistance. My lungs must adjust. My legs need to warm up. My torso and arms are adjusting to the jarring pace as my feet steadily hit the concrete and propel me forward. It is never my favorite part, but always necessary: the least comfortable part of the process. 

That is why, within the first few minutes of my run, I head for the largest hill in my neighborhood. It is about a quarter mile from my house, and about a half mile long. Once I arrive, I run downhill first. Thankfully is the natural order in this process – you have no choice but to start at the top because it is a cul-de-sac. Therefore, it becomes strategic because when I run downhill, it gives my body a little break while it adjusts to the pace. Gravity propels me forward. It prepares me and closes out the warm-up. It is a small victory that provides momentum for the hard part. 

When I get to the bottom of the hill, I always turn around, pause and look up and assess. I pay attention to the cars parked on the side of the street. These objects turn into tickers of progress. I look at the sidewalk – are there any obstructions, like garbage cans or people chatting in the middle of them? I need clearance because I do not want to stop once I start. If you stop in the middle of an uphill run, game over. I need steady momentum. If there are obstructions, and most times, there are, I will start the uphill run on the street. It is a slow traffic street, so it is relatively safe to run when necessary – a calculated small risk, easily mitigated by turning my audio down, and paying attention to the sounds around me as I go. 

When I start my steady climb up the hill, I stay on the street until the obstacles on the sidewalk have been passed. While running up the street, I use the cars as my markers for progress. Each car is only a few feet from my peripheral. I never look too far ahead. Once I pass a car, I focus on the next. Occasionally I glance a little further, and think, wow! Once I get to the silver truck ahead, I will be halfway! I then refocus on surpassing what is right in front of me. Bit by bit. Car by car. Each parked car propels me to the next. By the middle of the hill, I feel winded but able to keep going. It is around this point that I begin to make my way to the sidewalk to complete the latter half of my run, because as I start to get winded, I need markers of progress at a quicker pace to keep my mind present and engaged.

The sidewalk is made up of cement panels. These panels are roughly 2.5 jogging steps long. At the halfway point, they are wonderful markers and a good mind shift. The smallness of them allows me to continue momentum when I am growing especially weary of the trek, because I just remind myself – only 2.5 steps and you are onto the next one! It is so simple to look down and see what is right in front of me, and push forward, checking off another panel. The panels add up much quicker than the parked cars. I surpass one, and then the next, and the next. I glance ahead and find a small marker that shows I am almost there. A street lamp. Once I hit that streetlamp, I think, I will have just a few more yards until I reach the top. The sidewalk panels seem to go faster when I see the end is near. 

When I summit the hill, I am short of breath, sweaty, and in a state of general discomfort, but my mind is filled with something so pure: relief. 

Relief is a powerful because it grants us freedom. When we push through something hard, we gain freedom. Freedom sets us in a place of neutrality, and neutrality puts us in a place to receive. As I continue my run, which has only just begun, what tackling that first hill does for me is shift my body from resistance to reception. As I hit the top of the hill, my body is now neutralized while in a state of motion. When we’ve neutralized ourselves, resistance dissipates, and we are conditioned to receive. The relief is enjoyable and subconsciously reiterates what I am capable of. What has happened is, my body has aligned to the new state of motion because it has completed something hard. In other words, I have grown or expanded in my capability. When my body aligns to my mind, the rest of the run becomes fluid. Not easy – because I am still in a state of motion and still pushing – but fluid. I no longer feel resistance. I caught the current going in the right direction and am letting it carry me, instead of paddling upstream. Even on other hills, I propel with much more ease. I have done this before. I can do it again. No hill is harder to clear than the first hill, because showing up from a rested state is the hardest part.

Getting to the top of that first hill and beginning again on flat surface is a powerful reminder that we can do hard things, as Glennon Doyle would say. We can do hard things and find relief at the end. It does not mean we stop, it means we are fully capable of carrying on. 

Marks of progress are important. They keep us going when we are amid the hard things. Celebrate those marks of progress. The sense of joy raises your vibration and carries you forward. What parked cars or sidewalk panels can you look for that tell you, you are on the way, when you are in the midst of a challenge? Find them – they are little universal hints that the divine has your back. Reinforcement of your power. 

And remember – I made the choice to run that first hill. I brought that first hill to myself. When we become a part of a challenge, it is because we invited that situation in. We have it into our lives to prepare us, and to use it as a tool to gain freedom. Our subconscious is powerful. We may not realize we have run ourselves to the hill, but believe me, nothing else brought us there but our mind and our own two legs. Do not deny yourselves the hills. Summit them and grow. Allow the relief you are capable of and deserve, to propel you. 

Whitney Ellison is a thought leader and coach of the Enneagram and Quantum Energy. Learn more about her by visiting her website, and following her @wellisonenterprises on Instagram where you can find all of her Enneagram series interviews and other comings and goings.