Practices From the Inside Out: Why Are We Still Climbing?

Practices From the Inside Out: Why Are We Still Climbing? August 3, 2019

Why Are We Still Climbing?

There are days when we are not sure why we are still climbing.

Spiritual life can feel like a long, slow climb up a vertical wall of rock covered in ice. Some days feel more slippery or treacherous than others. There are times when we get to a place where we do not believe we can take another step.

Some of us are climbing because we enjoy it. We feel alive as we work our way up challenging paths. Even those of us who enjoy this get tired sometimes and feel we cannot go further.

Others of us do not understand why we are still climbing. If someone had told before we began this is what spiritual life is like, we probably would not have started. We thought spiritual life was comforting and supportive, not a struggle to keep climbing in the cold.

Some of us are not particularly enthusiastic about this climb.

Even now, as we rush toward the end of summer, we find ourselves on the climb of spiritual life.

Why is this climb so difficult, and why are we so afraid? How did we ever get started on this climb? Where are we going and when will we arrive?

We feel tired. Our hands are cold. We do not feel like we are making much progress. Why are we out here still climbing when we would rather be sitting by a fire drinking hot chocolate? We begin to feel someone has lied to us, baiting us and switching.

Where is all the joy and peace and freedom people talk about?

Is there anyone who can help us? This whole thing feels really unfair.

Are we stuck here clinging to this wall which is covered in ice? What will happen if we just decide to stop?

While We Are Still Climbing

There are times when we experience spiritual life as a long, cold struggle for survival.

What spiritual life tells us can cause conflict and disagreement and hard feelings. We may resist what we hear spiritual life telling us or other people may try to persuade us to resist. It may be a struggle within ourselves or a struggle with people we love.

We need to appreciate and remember spiritual life is at work transforming us. It is not an easy experience and I hope we are not fooled into believing it will be.

There is joy and peace and freedom, but we also face difficult challenges. Spiritual life is not effortless.

For many of us there are two essential aspects of spiritual life, what we believe and how we put our beliefs into practice. Each of them can feel like its own long, slow, cold climb.

Some of us feel we are still climbing to reach an understanding of what we believe. We see ourselves immersed in complicated ideas and confusing language. What do all these unusual words and concepts have to do with our experience of spiritual life? How can we sort through all these twists and turns to find a path toward what we believe?

At the same time some of us feel we are still climbing to understand how we practice what we believe. There seem to be people living into spiritual life on all sides of so many different questions and issues. How are we supposed to know how what we believe can shape the ways we behave? What can we do to help our lives reflect the values we hold?

These two aspects of spiritual life are not destinations at which we hope to arrive. They are why we are still climbing.

We Are All Still Climbing

Each of us is exploring and discovering spiritual life for ourselves. None of us has arrived at a place where we are not still climbing.

Some days  and some moments are more challenging than others. As we continue our journeys of discovery we learn what we need to do to help ourselves understand. Some of us need to build our strength in sorting out the complicated concepts involved in spiritual life. Others of us need to develop our ways of putting what we believe into practice.

The days when we feel exhausted because we are still climbing up a wall covered in ice have lessons for us. They show us where we can spend more time exploring. Some of those days are teaching us we need to rest and be restored before we continue climbing.

We have heard people who are experts in a particular area say the more they learn the more they realize they have much more to learn. Spiritual life is like that. The more we climb the more we realize we have more climbing to do. We are not mastering spiritual life, but opening ourselves to it.

Still Climbing and Still Growing

Our culture instills in us the value of arriving at our destination. We are comfortable asking questions to get answers. Putting puzzles together to see the final solution is what we do.

Some of us are still climbing icy walls of rock to get to the top. Other people climb to get in touch with spiritual life and their true selves. They are listening and learning as they climb in relationship to the mountain.

It is not about conquering the mountain, but something more intimate than that.

We need to learn to rest when we are tired, to take care of ourselves on our climb. Our climb is about exploring our relationship to spiritual life. What do we believe and what do we not believe? How can we put what we believe into practice in our everyday lives?

Each step is a new beginning which opens us to possibilities we have not seen before. We are still climbing, not to reach the top, but to see where spiritual life takes us.

Why are we still climbing into spiritual life today?

Where will we go when we are still climbing next week or the week after?

[Image by Siris ..]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is and his email address is

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