For those who love the highlands, there is something magical about climbing mountains. Doing so engages the inner soul in us and to many, the awesome peaks of some of the world’s highest mountains can be an inspiring adventure. The majesty of mountains whether snow-covered, cloud shrouded or bursting with thick forest challenge many people, and every now and again, we read about Mt. Everest of the Himalayas or the fearsome Mt. Eiger in the Alps being attempted. Movies of mountain climbers have become cult hits, and mountain climbing truly inspires many of us.
But whether you climb the Andes of South America or Malaysia’s very own Mt Kinabalu, it is important to observe the protocols of mountain trekking. When you go trekking up any mountain or hill, it is vital to be mindful of the elements that make up the space of the forest and rock pathways of the mountain.
Mentally, you must take heed of the creatures that live in and are a part of the mountain. More importantly, you need to acknowledge that there are spirits and invisible guardians of every hill and valley, and every tree and rock formation you encounter as you trek. When you climb in this state of awareness, you need to then generate an attitude of respect for these invisible “energies” of the mountains! Doing so can be the difference between the whole experience being gloriously awesome or otherwise tragic. It is easy to get lost, get sick or be a victim of sudden weather changes when you climb the mountains.
Climbers must watch their actions, their spoken words and even the thoughts that flit through their minds. It is in fact advisable to listen to music as you climb, as this puts you in a positive frame of mind, thereby evoking a mood of joyousness. You will find that having a happy attitude is infectious – it spreads to the surroundings.
It is useful to think of mountains as sacred grounds. This is why so many local legends grow up around many of the high mountains of the world. When we venture into territory where supposedly mountain spirits and gods reside, it is important to be mindful.
Here are NINE things to bear in mind should you be planning a trek up any hill or mountain.
1 Have a respectful demeanour
Be happy and joyful by all means, but underlying all that happy mood should be an attitude of respectfulness. Think at the back of your mind that the hillside you are trekking or the rock-face you are climbing possess their own energy essence, and feel grateful you are allowed to be there. When your attitude is respectful, you will find the breezes seem more gentle and the rustling of the leaves appear happy – they mirror your mood! And when you reach the peak, share your sense of achievement with the energy of the mountain.
2 Never speak too loud or use bad language while trekking
Be mindful how you speak. Avoid arguing or using strong language while walking up the mountain. Always remind yourself that trees and rocks of the mountains have ears – there are invisible beings eavesdropping on your conversation. Avoid talking about subjects that may be controversial and never get carried away arguing or losing your temper. Be mindful of the tone of your voice and your manner of speaking. Mostly, remind yourself to avoid talking about anything that may upset you.
3 Never say out loud anything insulting, critical or denigrating,
… especially not about any aspect of the terrain or the climb. This is something that mountain village elders always warn their youngsters to observe, and in fact, it is advisable not to talk too much as you trek up the mountain. You could be unlucky when you are giving voice to your views and opinions that there can be a mountain spirit passing by and the tone of your voice might appear to be offensive!
Remember that mountains spirits can be “small minded” and “sensitive”. If you know anything about worldly spirit beings, you will know that the wandering ones, who are usually “homeless”, tend to be just like you, and hence they can be mischievous and naughty.
Spirits are not Gods. They can and do take offence, and if you are unlucky to meet up with an especially unkind “wandering spirit”, you could get sick or feel yourself getting uneasy and unbalanced. For this reason, it is always a great idea to wear amulets or blessing strings or a blessed seed syllable when walking the mountain. I always recite my mantras as I walk, and I would never be without a prayer wheel pendant or a seed syllable bracelet!
4 Never take any plants from the mountain
… or any pretty stone from a small river, or even coloured rock you find unusual. I remember a friend of mine who brought home what she described as a “volcanic rock” from one of the hill treks she took in Hawaii. When she returned home, she got very sick, and it was only when she showed me the black stone and I asked her about it that I suspected that she could have offended a guardian protector by taking the stone without permission. She is “superstitious” as I am, so she lost no time returning the stone to that dormant volcano in Hawaii.
As for plants, it is the height of cruelty to uproot a plant that takes your fancy and bring it home to be planted in your garden. Stolen from their home and “family” in the mountain, plants tend to die of heartbreak. If you want to bring plants home, ask the mountain for permission and then bring them back in a cluster (i.e. with their brothers and sisters) and with their root systems intact.
Remember that plants communicate with each other via their roots, and they need the comfort of their pals when taken to a strange new place. Next, make sure you leave something behind as a gift. It can be by burning an incense stick or by leaving a few pellets of “plantfood” (fertilizer).
5 Never desecrate any anthill, bees’ nest or bat cave.
This is so important because all the creatures of the mountains have their own ecosystem and they live within communities that also have their own protector guardians. It can seem tempting to knock off bits of ant colonies or go into caves to disturb the bats residing within, but I promise you there will always be consequences. You might not know it, but when you disturb the creatures of the forests, the jungle or the mountains, their protector spirits are more than likely to cause disturbances to your trekking. Thus you bring problems to those who may be out with you.
6 Never pee anywhere without permission.
When you feel like going to the toilet, always ensure you join your hands together in a gesture of respect and then silently (under your breath) ask for permission to take a pee. Allow time for any spirit nearby to move away and after you have finished, say a word of thanks.
In this connection, try not to pee on a rock, on an anthill or into a river. The best is to pee next to a tree and think you are offering plant food to the trees. If you do not observe these “preliminaries”, you can encounter some obstacle for the rest of your trek, or worse, you might fall sick from something that is hard to heal from.
7 Never wander off on your own.
Always stay with at least one other person. Children must always be within sight of their minders or parents. In mountains, it is easy to get lost, and often, this can be due to naughty wandering spirits leading you astray. This is why it is always a good idea to wear an amulet when going to such places. And to recite your mantras. Get my FREE booklet CHANT A MANTRA and keep this inside your rucksack. Just having this book with you will be the best kind of amulet.
8 Be lavish in your praise of the plants, flowers and scenery you see on the way.
Just like us, the “beings” of other realms and especially those who live in the mountains love being praised. These spirits rarely see or interact with people like us who live in the human realms. They are likely to respond more favourably to praise than to criticism. Always have only the nicest things to say about the trees, the plants, the rocks, the weather and all the creatures of the jungle you meet along the way.
9 Offer incense to the forest spirits
This is an incredibly beneficial ritual to perform at the start or end of a mountain trek. Usually, just three sticks of incense would do nicely, but do remember to give voice to the offering. Say out loud you offer incense to the Gods, the Protectors and Spirit Beings of the mountains, and ask them to please accept the offering and thank them for a beautiful walk into the mountain. It does not matter if the mountain is a tropical jungle or a snowcapped mountain pass.
All the spirits of the land enjoy incense offerings, and often, they will reward you with great weather and a lovely day! If you swim in any of the mountain pools you see along the way, also offer incense to the spirits of the waters to stay safe against unknown creatures of the waters.