Friday Musings: A Higher Perspective

I recently moved into the mountains. I live above the 8,000 foot elevation and frequently hike, run, climb, and mountain bike above 10,000 feet. 

I am always struck by an indescribable wonder at such great heights. Everything seems more expansive and you cannot help but feel light and optimistic. I am not the first to report the positive psychological outcome of a visit to the mountains. This effect is more than the obvious awe for the vastness of your surroundings. At higher elevations the horizon is literally lower. When you stand several thousand feet further from the center of the earth you can see further arounds its curvature. The landscape beneath you and the sky above you both appear more vast.

A simple shift in vantage turns an otherwise ordinary landscape into a stunning vista.

Everyone should take trips to the high mountains as frequently as they have access. The effects on mental health and overall happiness are without comparison, but this is not actually a case for mountain life. Understanding how elevation can shift our perspective of our surroundings teaches us an important lesson about how to view life’s circumstances.

When you are in the depths of a bad situation - illness, familial conflict, the end of relationships, loss of a job, depression, or any other dark place that seems to shrink the walls in around you - it is often impossible to find any light or optimism in the world. To pass through a dark time we must always maintain that the world is full of light, even if (and especially when) it does not seem to shine on us.

In these moments we view the world from a lower elevation or even in a hole. Just because we are are incapable of seeing it does not mean that beauty or vastness do not exist around us. Seen from a higher vantage our surroundings appear entirely different.

Moving higher shifts your perspective. At the lower point, it’s difficult to see that any better outlook exists. While it does not make the climb out any easier, remember that any change in perspective will motivate you to continue climbing. 

All we can do in these moments is begin to climb, however slowly. With each incremental move higher, our horizon recedes into the distance, revealing all the beauty we knew was there but could not yet see.