Monthly Archives: April 2009

Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time is one of those books that just gets under your skin, in a good way. I could not put it down. The story is about an amazing individual named Greg Mortenson who has single-handedly done more for the elimination of illiteracy, the education of woman and the reduction in potential terrorists than anyone on the planet.

Greg Mortenson believes that there is no better investment than the education of our children, especially in third world countries. The estimate in return in one generation is $18 for every $1 invested in education. That’s incredible!

In 1993, Greg attempted to climb K2 (second highest peak in the world) in his sister’s honor who had died the year before. While recovering in the rural Pakistani village of Korphe after being lost for days in the desolate mountainous area, his life dramatically changed. He watched children using sticks in the dirt work out their multiplication tables. He vowed and made a promise that he would come back and build a school for the village.

One year later, he fulfilled that promise. The book details the next 10 + years of dedication, determination, patience, audacity, tenacity, faith, struggle, stubbornness,  kindness, compassion and just plain hard work while he built dozens of schools across northern rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. It’s an amazing story of courage that has transformed the lives of tens of thousand of children in this region.

Reading this book will give you a completely different view and perspective of the people that live here, their complicated/convoluted politics, the Muslim people in general and what effect one person can have on so many.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Additional links:

Greg Mortenson’s website

Central Asia Institute (Greg is co-founder and executive director. This is the non-profit body that supplies the money for the educational projects)

Greg Mortenson’s Blog

Three Cups of Tea website

Pennies for Peace website

Michael

Recovery, Farewell and No Regrets

With a heavy heart I left my daughter and her boyfriend in Yosemite. Unfortunately, I have to fly back to New England tomorrow on a very early flight.

I’m a very lucky father in the fact that I have a fantastic daughter. We also share a love of nature and the outdoors. Hiking with her is fun because we both love the details of the hike; looking for unusual things, animals, plants, rocks and simply enjoying the experience overall. It’s fun to share that kind of activity especially with family. We are already planning our next adventure.

Before I left, my daughter’s boyfriend asked me if I regretted doing the Upper Yosemite Falls hike. I said, “Ask me in 72 hours. That’s when I expect the sore muscles to be back to normal.”   :-)   Truly though, I don’t regret it one bit. The difficulty of the hike was more than rewarded for the sense of accomplishment and the view that very few people get to see.

I have learned to regret very little now. I don’t find it a useful thought process or emotion. Regret implies that we have made a mistake. If you are moving through life, trying out new things, endeavoring to have new experiences, how can you have any mistakes? If something doesn’t work out or you don’t like it, then you have more information than you did prior to that experience. You simply move on to the next logical step whatever that might be. There are no mistakes. Bumps in the road maybe, but no mistakes.

No regrets! Throw that phrase out of you vocabulary. You’ll be much happier for it.

Michael

The Top of Yosemite Falls

Top of Yosemite

Top of Yosemite

I had promised my daughter that I would hike the very steep Upper Yosemite Falls trail. It’s 6.8 miles roundtrip with a 2700 feet elevation gain in 3.4 miles and it starts at 4000 feet elevation. That translates to strenuous. Physically I probably wasn’t ready for this one, but I really wanted to do it.

I had inspiration from a book I was reading, thanks to Nat, called 3 Cups of Tea. More about that book later, but basically the main character in this true story overcame immense personal difficulties in a part of the world that is very remote. I used his story for inspiration while hiking.

If I had thought about what this hike would entail for me, I wouldn’t have been able to complete it. So, what I did was break down the hike into hundreds of small goals. For example sometimes they could be as simple as getting to the next turn 50 yards ahead. Even though the big goal was far away, I decided to focus on the present and making that next step. I also tried to not look too far ahead. This helped me to concentrate on the task at hand which was to get the next step completed.

For the next 4 ½ hours I completed my hundreds of goals and made it to the top of Yosemite Falls. It was worth every minute. We saw deer up close and personal. We got views of Upper Yosemite Falls that people in the valley never see. We saw wildflowers. We were able to connect to the other groups making the trek to the top. They were from all cultures and races. It was quite amazing. We all had one thing in common and that was reaching the top. Where we were from wasn’t that important anymore.

The way back was a completely different set of challenges. The steep downhill grade made for a difficult trip and was harder than I had imagined. I limped down the last mile as my leg muscles were over taxed. I had to use my technique again to make the final push.

This technique is what I talk about all the time on this blog. Have a future goal in mind, but focus on the present. What are you doing right now to propel you towards where you want to go? Each thought each step is important, especially the thought. That’s where it all begins.

I’m glad I was able to hike to the top of the world’s 5th highest waterfall. That felt good! Total trip time: 8 ½ hours. Phew!

Have a great day!

Michael

New Paths in Yosemite

Yosemite Falls taken with iPhone

Yosemite Falls taken with iPhone

Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space. – Ansel Adams

My daughter and I started the day off by taking paths in the valley that she had not taken before. I wanted her to see the valley from a different perspective. We were rewarded with some great views of Yosemite Falls with the Merced River in the foreground.

The rest of the day was spent finding little areas of the park that we had never explored. We saw several waterfalls and streams on the north side of the valley that were gushing with water right now that were not known by most people.

My goal today was to see popular attractions from slightly different angles. I was rewarded with some lovely views; some were simply from a different angle while others were expressed in unusual reflections.

It’ really important to step out of our regular habits and views periodically to explore what else the world has to offer. Sometimes all it takes is to move over a few feet and the perspective changes completely.

I’m glad our intentions were the same today. All of us got exactly what we were looking for; more natural beauty in low traveled areas of Yosemite Valley. The park is amazing in its vastness. Don’t just see what everyone else goes to see.

Have a great day!

Michael

Loving Yosemite

El Captan (taken with iPhone)

El Captan (taken with iPhone)

Yosemite is as wonderful as it always has been for me. The thrill of seeing the 3500+ foot sheer granite cliff of El Capitan rising from the valley floor always sends me to a place of instant quiet and reflection.

As my daughter and I stood there looking in wonder, I told her that it never gets old for me. She agreed. We usually stop at the same place near Bridal Veil Falls to stare for a few minutes or longer sometimes. This short stop always sets the stage for me for the rest of my experience at Yosemite. It starts great, ends wonderfully and the middle is filled with adventures.

The benefit I gain mentally, emotionally and spiritually from traveling to this unique place lasts for many weeks and months. It only takes a few moments to regain those feelings through remembering my experiences here. Just thinking about this natural wonderland makes me feel calm and peaceful.

I’m glad to be back here especially with my daughter. We’ll celebrate her birthday during our trip!

The sky is inky black. Thousands of stars shine down on us. It’s time for bed to get ready for tomorrow’s adventure.

Michael

Back in California

I left Boston this morning at 6:00 a.m. on a flight to San Francisco. I traveled here to visit my daughter. We are going to take our annual spring trek to Yosemite National Park.

I love flying into San Francisco. Today was one of the best as it was partly cloudy and you could clearly see the azure green waters of the bay stretching for miles. Mt. Tamalpais loomed north of the Golden Gate Bridge. The familiar skyline of downtown San Francisco was a welcome sight. It was a perfect spring day.

After grabbing my luggage I walked to the tram to catch a ride to the rental car facility. Once outside, I immediately noticed the crisp, cool ocean breeze off the Pacific sweeping briskly through the airport. I caught a strong scent of cedar, fir and redwood. The smell was intoxicating and I immediately felt a wave of exhilaration. I was back on the west coast!

It’s amazing to me how a place can really get under you skin. I’ve always felt that about northern California.

More about my adventures as the week progresses.

Michael

A Little Spark of Madness

You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it. – Robin Williams

So true. Too often, we are told to suppress the mischievous and edgy side of ourselves, the part of us that is childlike, the adventurous side. We’re told to grow up. Act mature. Be more adult.

By doing that we squash little bits of our true nature. We lose small parts of our happiness. Maybe lose is a strong word. It’s probably more like we don’t use those parts which implies you can get it back if you try.

Why do we hide these nuggets of madness and craziness? I think most of the time it’s peer pressure. We must not rock the boat. Individuality is frowned upon. Society is dictating how we act. But, mostly I think it is a fear of being different. Because by being different we may be rejected, shunned or discarded even.

I think those consequences pale beside the sacrifice some of us make to be “normal” or the same as everyone else. If you can’t be who you truly are, what kind of life is that? It’s not a fulfilling life. It’s more like a meager existence.

Stop holding yourself back. Laugh out loud when you want to. Say what’s on your mind. Go do something out of your normal routine. Go create some adventure. Go on the vacation you’ve always dreamed. Start a hobby you always wanted to try. Play some practical jokes on unsuspecting friends and family. Sing karaoke. Go climb a mountain.

What it is doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you do what you are not doing. You let out what you have been holding in or back. Go enjoy life. It’s what you deserve.

Have a great day!

Michael

What Comes and Goes

I make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes. – Sara Teasdale

Now, this is what a call a superior attitude. You can’t lose with an attitude and way of life like Sara describes.

I think employing this attitude could/would actually increase the good that is coming your way because your focus is turned away from what is no longer necessary or applicable in your life. Your focus is more on the present; what you have right now in your hands. You can make good of it or not. It’s a choice, but a big one. Your life would dramatically change if you made the most of whatever was coming your way.

It would remove your dependency on external things for your happiness. Your level of happiness would be solely in your hands, which means you can be happy no matter what is happening in your life. It may sound simplistic, but I think it actually is simplistic. We make too much of stuff sometimes. We get wrapped up in the events of our lives. It would be better to see what we can do with what comes our way. It’s a 180 degrees shift.

Think about this concept. I’m definitely incorporating this into my daily life.

Have a great day!

Michael

There is Good in the World

There is good in the world. It may be hard to tell if you stay home and watch the news. But, everywhere, and I mean everywhere I go, I find wonderful people quietly doing good things, helping others and working on themselves. In all these people, hope is not an intellectual topic, it’s a way of life. They do more than think hope. They help people nurture hope and then teach them how to spread it around.

The world is not falling apart. We live in extraordinary times. Many things are changing for the better. It might be hard to see because the it’s more like a grassroots movement right now. But, you don’t have to look far to see it, unless you of course you don’t believe there is good bubbling up in the world. As I’ve recently mentioned on this blog, we find what we are looking for. We see what we want to see. Look for negativity and you’ll find negativity. Look for positive things and you’ll find positive things. It comes down to choice.

You can be a part of this movement by doing a little bit of anonymous good here and there. It won’t take much effort but the benefits to future generations could be enormous.

What do think? You could start immediately.

Michael

Paper Thin Fears

Many of our fears are tissue-paper-thin, and a single courageous step would carry us clear through them. – Brendan Francis Behan

This is a fantastic revelation for those of us that harbor numerous fears. But, how do we know which are paper thin and which are made of stone? We can’t really. From the scary side of fear it always looks bigger than reality. We have no perspective to truly judge.

So, Mr. Behan’s idea is the only valid choice. Make that courageous step. You’ll immediately know the size and nature of the fear. If it’s a small one, then you are through and can celebrate. If it is a bigger one, then you’ve just made a very important step in the elimination of this fear in your life. Again, celebrations are in order.

Eliminating fears will propel you forward in ways that you may not be able to imagine right now. Holding on to fears, thinking about fears, holding back because of fears, not being who you truly are because of fears all take a huge amount of energy to maintain. We don’t realize this because we “adapt” over time. It’s like being slowly boiled. We are not aware until the stress level is quite high.

When we release a fear, it’s like being plugged into an electrically outlet. We get back all the energy that was tied up holding on to the fear. That energy can now be used for anything you desire: eliminating more fears, creative pursuits, pursuing a passion, having fun, getting a better night’s sleep and many, many more. It will also give you hope and encouragement in other areas of your life.

What small step can you take today to overcome a fear?

Michael