Have you ever climbed a mountain?
I'm actually talking about a real 'mountain' now, although I'll get on to the metaphorical in just a moment.
In my youth it was something I fancied doing ... well maybe not Everest but certainly smaller mountains ...
However, a medical condition I had in my childhood meant that I don't do well at very high altitude so that was not an option for me. I have been skiing in the mountains but I have always lost a few days of my holiday to severe altitude sickness, so I haven't swished down the slopes for quite a few years now. Truth be told, my knees probably couldn't take the strain now anyway.
I still love the idea of going to the Himalayas and the Andes but I guess I'll just need to do that in my imagination.
Back to why I'm talking about this today.
Well, it was on this day in the year 1919 that a child was born in New Zealand who would go on to become the first of two people to reach the top of Mount Everest.
Edmund Hillary (later to become Sir Edmund) was an explorer, mountaineer, diplomat and philanthropist and it was on May 29th 1953 that he and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest - or at least to confirm they reached the top of the mountain.
It was just one of many achievements but, by all accounts, it didn't make Hillary big headed or arrogant. Although his climb made him an international sensation, and of course led to the opening of the mountain for the generations to come, following his ascent of Everest, among other things Hillary devoted himself to assisting the Sherpa people of Nepal through the Himalayan Trust, which he established, and which built many schools and hospitals.
To climb a mountain, let alone the highest mountain in the world, takes great bravery, and in 1953 it took exceptional courage. There wasn't the sophisticated equipment including breathing apparatus which exists today, so the peril was severe. Hillary and Tenzing Norgay weren't the first to try to conquer Everest, many many people had attempted it before and failed and even died in the trying. People have died since ... I remember one former teacher who I learned some years after I left school in the 1970s had perished while attempting Everest.
And, of course, many have successfully now followed in Hillary and Norgay's footsteps.
Everest wasn't the only peak in the Himalayas (and other ranges) that Sir Edmund would climb in his lifetime and he knew that it wasn't just about physical bravery but also mental strength.
After climbing Everest Sir Edmund is said to have said this ...
'It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves!'
Stand by for the metaphors ... because of course we all have 'mountains' to climb in our lives. They might not be actual mountains but they feel like that sometimes. Insurmountable conditions under which we are living, difficult people, constrained finances, ill health... you get the idea. Fill in the gaps for yourself.
Before we face these problems in life, maybe we need to consider and perhaps attempt to overcome some of our own issues? Those things which maybe are holding us back from going for our dreams and for the things we know will improve our lives. We need, perhaps, to find ways to ensure we are strong, so we can face what might come and ensure we have the mental, physical and spiritual 'equipment' to cope with it all! I'm not only talking about 'mind over matter', it's more complicated than that. But maybe we need to draw on our inner values and strength to face difficulties and move forward.
It may be hard, but worth trying., if we are to reach our goals in life!
So, whatever your 'mountain' is - hope this encourages you today!