On day 4 in the Andes, I hiked with Avishai* and two fellow travelers to the pre-Incan tombs that I could see from a trail near the farmhouse. From the distance, the round holes that punctuated the reddish swath of rock reminded me of the red cliff homes of the ancient Anasazi people of the U.S. Southwest. Our climb to the pre-Incan tombs was very steep, particular the last ascent, which was like scaling a cliff. As I pulled myself up by handfuls of thorny bushes, I told myself to not look down because I suddenly remembered I was afraid of heights.
When the four of us finally reached the rock shelf housing the three tombs, which were round and open-mouthed like red clay ovens, we sat in silence for a long while. There, next to the ancestors’ tombs and the cliff’s perilous edge, I reflected on fear and the need to befriend it.
As I rose to face the precipitous edge, Avishai counseled that faith and practice come from the same root word in Hebrew. Faith and practice cannot be separated. To have faith is to act on it, to walk. He encouraged me to trust my body and its intuitive ability to select the right footholds. And so I descended, trusting my body and befriending the gaping expanse.
Facing the edge, I now realize, was the best experience of the day. Too often the unknown is muddied by apprehension simply because we lack the ability to imagine it any other way.
*Avishai and Viviana are my hosts and the proud proprietors of the Sacred Valley Retreat and Bed &Breakfast