“Slow down. Breathe. Take your time. We have all day...and after today we have six more days.” It was late in the afternoon, and I was coaching a guest through a technical section of our ascent

Porters on Mt Kilimanjaro

Porters support an expedition high on Mt Kilimanjaro

A few weeks ago, I was leading seven climbers on an expedition to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa. Standing at 19,341 feet, Mt. Kilimanjaro is a challenging endeavor that demands your full presence - physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

A Tanzanian porter, essential to the success and well-being of our expedition, walked by carrying a heavy load. With a beaming smile, the porter sincerely looked in the eyes of my client and said: “Pole Pole.” Pole Pole (pronounced Po-lay Po-lay) is Swahili for slowly, gently, or softly, and is shared daily as the wisdom for a successful ascent of the mountain. Pole Pole.

Our team summited Kilimanjaro under clear and calm skies. The ascent, while beautiful and challenging, went off without a hitch technically: we had a strong team and perfect conditions.

At our last camp on our descent off the mountain, we gathered for a final celebration dinner before heading back to town, back to cell phones, back to email and internet, work and family demands. Pole Pole was the topic of discussion. The group was in alignment: we run our lives at a sprint, reacting and responding to a seemingly never-ending stream of demands and information. Pole Pole. We wanted to take Pole Pole home with us.

High Camp on Mt Kilimanjaro

High Camp on Mt. Kilimanjaro

Pole Pole was a gift: a gift of respite, rejuvenation, a feeling of space that gave us physical and emotional peace. The gift of time and presence that we all felt was missing in our full-engagement, 24/7, all-hands-on-deck lives at home. Pole Pole created an opportunity for laughter, camaraderie, and appreciation.

Pole Pole. It is the pause at dinner when you share your appreciations for the day. The moments you intentionally set aside your agenda and engage with a child fully, at their speed. Pausing to savor and really taste your coffee. Taking a full breath and appreciating the moment for what it is, not what it could be. Living and being present to those around you - to that moment.

Pole Pole. It’s not easy to integrate Pole Pole into our lives. But, the rewards are rich and wonderful. Give yourself, and those around you, the gift of Pole Pole. Practice it today, this hour, this evening.

Matt Walker is an Adventure Consultant with Inner Passage in the Methow Valley, WA. He thrives on facilitating adventure for others. His latest book is titled 'Adventure in Everything'. You can learn more and download the first chapter for free at www.innerpassage.net

About the Author

Matt Walker M.A.
Matt Walker, M.S. is a psychologist, world-class mountain climber, and the author of Adventure in Everything: How the Five Elements of Adventure Create a Life of Authenticity.

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