“This hike will be difficult,” the outfitter warned. “If you get altitude sickness, you’ll feel nauseated and lightheaded, and you may not be able to reach the summit.” I’d grown up climbing mountains, but his words scared me. What if I got sick on the hike?
I attend an international school in Kenya, where children of 91 different nationalities study alongside one another. At the beginning of ninth grade we climb Mt. Kenya, the second-highest mountain in Africa, for our class trip. This is a highly anticipated rite of passage into high school, and I was very excited about the climb.
But when we went through the pre-trip training with the outfitter, the issue of altitude sickness was raised many times. Even though I had already peaked eight of the Collegiate Peaks in Colorado during summer camp—all around 14,000 feet high—this topic had never been dwelt on before. The summer camp is for Christian Scientists, and our pre-trips had involved metaphysical preparation and a pure thought environment, free from fear and an emphasis on physical problems. So it was a bit alarming to hear so much about altitude sickness.
The first few days of the trip went smoothly, and I was enjoying myself so much. But on the third day, the day before we would reach the peak, my best friend started falling behind, saying she didn’t feel so well. The trip leaders were quick to diagnose her symptoms as altitude sickness. There had been a lot of fear and conversation about altitude sickness that day, and I was very worried about the symptoms my friend was experiencing. Soon I also began feeling tired and dizzy.
As we approached our camp for the night, I was doubting more and more that I would be able to peak the next day. The people around me were also commenting on my condition.
I started humming hymns to myself, and this seemed to lift up my friend and others around me.
Before going to bed early, I spent some time in prayer. I thought about a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”—which also appears as an epigraph before the Preface of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. I realized that my experience had to do with mortal mind—the supposed power of material beliefs that claim to be opposed to God, but are really just illusions.
In the case of altitude sickness, mortal mind was trying to convince me that I should feel tired and sick. But as soon as I decided to watch what I let into my thought, I could clearly see that being on the trip was an opportunity for me to express God, and that was my real activity on this climb.
The next day we woke up early to peak. My friend and I were still wondering about our ability to reach the top. We came to a steep uphill section that seemed to stretch on forever. My friend and I had fallen to the back of the group, and the trip leader quietly told us that if we weren’t able to get up the hill by a certain point, we’d have to turn around.
This was a turning point in my thinking. That day the sun was bright, and we were all wearing our sunglasses. When I feel the sun’s warmth, it reminds me of how God’s love for me is always pouring forth. This really raised my spirits.
Then I remembered something one of the leaders had said during the pre-trip: that anyone can climb Mt. Kenya because in reality the hike is 60 percent mental and 40 percent physical. I started thinking about how we can’t let physical limitations run our life because, as Mrs. Eddy says, “All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all” (Science and Health, p. 468). We are the “manifestation” part—the manifestation of God. I didn’t have to let fear dictate what I could and could not do, because infinite Mind was in control.
I also included my friend in these prayers, recognizing that God was uplifting her, too. Whenever I had been on a trip at Christian Science summer camp, we had always sung hymns to each other when there was a need for inspiration. So I started humming hymns to myself, and this seemed to lift up my friend and others around me as well.
Not only my friend and I but everyone in the group ended up peaking within the time frame. By the time we got to base camp, we were all ready to enjoy the last day of the trip.
The most wonderful thing about this healing was the number of people who told me they had seen the change in my outlook and attitude and knew that if I could peak, so could they. My principal’s wife, my class advisor, and one of the parent chaperones all commented on the shift. I was happy that not only did I have a change in thought but this healing was able to help others as well. It showed me that when you build a spiritual fire within, others can benefit from the warmth, too.
This experience made me really appreciate being able to attend a summer camp with fellow students of Christian Science. I love being able to hike in a supportive environment, where God’s healing presence is acknowledged and celebrated.
Shea Orth-Moore is a senior in high school. She loves to hike and explore the great outdoors. Shea also loves getting involved in her community through service projects and the Global Issues Network, an international student group.
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