Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tools for the Journey #6 - REACH

My friend, Erik Weihenmayer is the most famous adaptive athlete in the world. He is the only blind mountaineer who has summited all Seven Summits. Recently, while visiting us in New Hampshire, Erik gave me one of the most important "tools for the journey" I have received in a long time.

These simple words from him will serve me well on the journey ahead:

"When you are reaching for your goals sometimes this means you will be reaching out into darkness - reach anyway. Trust yourself. Trust the people closest to you to support you. Trust the ground underneath you, and reach out with courage because the "darkness" is a temporary state." (

While Erik was in New Hampshire I took him climbing. Watching him climb the chosen vertical rock face I saw him act out this advice. He made sure he had all the necessary equipment (tools) to accomplish the task before him, he had someone go ahead of him to clip in the anchors he'd need to prevent him from falling too far if he fell, and then he started climbing. He trusted the people with him on this adventure to support him, he trusted the rock beneath him, and he reached out with courage for where he wanted to go.

Standing there among the splendid wash of autumn colors watching Erik climb that rock face changed me. Watching someone with far more to fear, reach bravely out into the darkness was powerful and encouraging. Erik lives his own advice every day. Even though the "darkness" for him is a permanent state - he showed me it is just a choice, a state of mind rather than a state of being...and he chooses light as his state of mind, the place he comes from, even as he continually reaches out into the darkness.

Time Magazine put it best: "There is no way to put what Erik has done into perspective because no one has ever done anything like it. It is a unique achievement, one that in the truest sense pushes the limits of what man is capable."

So, my friends REACH; and remember the darkness is only a temporary state.