One of the most common questions I’m asked by twenty-somethings is how to create a values-aligned life. How do you create a successful career, while also actively pursuing the other things that are deeply important to you?
In my case, mountaineering, experiencing new cultures, writing and publishing a book, and most importantly, growing the relationship with two little girls my wife and I met in the Himalaya, in a remote mountain village that was isolated from the rest of the world.
While things may look neat and tidy from the outside, I can assure you it’s always a work in progress. But there are a few life lessons I’ve learned along the way. I’ve taken a few mini excerpts from my new book A Story of Karma: Finding Love and Truth in the Lost Valley of the Himalaya to help illustrate a few key lessons.
Life Lessons I Learned in the Lost Valley of the Himalaya
Sometimes Life’s Most Meaningful Moment Are Not Meant To Be Understood
“We tried so hard to make sense of it all – to understand what was best for two little girls in this strange and uncertain world, to reconcile the conflicting values of our cultures, to find the right path. But perhaps some things aren’t meant to be understood. Perhaps all we need to do is to listen to the unspoken language of the heart.”
This journey taught me that some of life’s deepest and most meaningful moments are not meant to be understood or made sense of – sometimes we just have to embrace them for what they are to do the right thing.
“Some part of me felt like a failure for not fulfilling my dream… My fate was in the hands of something greater than my will. I chose to trust in that. “
In our western world we can get caught up in achieving an end state – this can cause us to miss much more meaningful and important moments in life. Since I was a teenager, my dream was to climb in the Himalaya. When my dream was crushed at the very foot of the mountain (we were caught in a snowstorm at 17,000 feet and my mule carrying my climbing gear ran off), I was left struggling with not knowing what to do, and in an identity crisis.
Everything inside of me was telling me to keep pushing for the mountain, but everything outside of me was pulling me in a different direction. Walking away from my dream of climbing the mountain brought me a much greater gift: the gift of meeting Karma and her little sister, Pemba.
Approach Others With Compassion and Empathy
“What is this deep familial connection I feel to them? Why do I feel their eyes are a mirror into my very soul?”
Never has there been a more important time to look past our own worldview, biases, and ‘blinders’ – embracing diversity and connecting with each other first on a human level is the conscious shift that needs to happen now. Approaching others with compassion and empathy is the first step in this process.
“There’s something very special about Himalayan children: their deeply rooted Dharma, their mindfulness, their caring and compassionate nature for all living beings, their capacity to open their hearts to others, and their ability to inspire others to do the same – all virtues embedded in their culture. And virtues we need more of in our modern world.”
I’ve witnessed a deeper understanding of interconnectedness embedded in the culture and nature of Himalayan children – seeing themselves not as separate individuals, but as part of an interconnected web, helps inform their actions and behaviors, and fosters an overall greater sense of caring in the world. I’ve learned that the more we practice achieving harmony within, the more we are also taking care of the greater community around us.
“Had we been in any other place, our team might have attracted some attention, for we appeared to be a rather oddly mismatched group: Arek with his bright beaded bracelets and necklaces and painted toenails; Michael with his long golden hair wrapped in a purple bandana, a blond pointy goatee and a guitar slung over one shoulder; Jason with his thick handlebar moustache beneath the curved brim of a large brown cowboy hat; and Chantal and I, much more conventional-looking types with our sport sunglasses and high-performance, trim-fitting climbing wear. But here in the streets of Kathmandu, we were but a tiny piece of a vast spectrum of ever-moving colour and sound. We fit right in – with each other and with the scene at large.”
Be Discerning With Whom You Spend Your Time
Our expedition team was a mismatched group from different walks of life – but we were all united by the pull of the Lost Valley.
Honor your ‘tribe’ – those who value your worth and who are like-minded (like-hearted). Be discerning with who you spend your valuable time with. Who you share your time with, is who you ultimately become.
“The mountain trail following the winding Phu River was as narrow as I remembered it, often wide enough for only a single horse. It snaked its way high above the valley floor, with sheer cliffs on either side. I thought about the horse carcass we had seen the last time we were here five years ago. The horse had slipped off the trail, falling to the rocks below. I looked to the girls, riding along the same narrow cliffs, and tried to put that thought out of my mind. Back home no parent I knew would have allowed their child to take such a risk. Yet here it was a necessity.”
There are many stark differences between how children grow up in the high Himalaya versus how they grow up in the western world – in the mountains, from the very young age of 5 or 6, children have to quickly learn to become self-sufficient and contributing members of the household while experiencing life and death, sickness and health, and everything in between.
By 14 or 15, many girls will get married and begin to have children of their own. Recognizing the world beyond ourselves will foster gratitude, and help us practice to be gentle on ourselves. No one has the answers, but by listening to others, we can learn more about ourselves.
About the author: Michael Schauch
Michael Schauch is a mountaineer, entrepreneur and storyteller who lives to explore remote places around the world and to share the depth and beauty of human connection he discovers along the way.
With early success as an entrepreneur at age 15, and over 20 years of global financial investment experience, Schauch brings his business acumen and altruistic heart to lead and support local and international mentorship, fundraising and educational initiatives. These include the education of girls and student mentorship in Nepal, outdoor youth leadership for those facing barriers to access nature and holistic Indigenous leadership development in British Columbia. He holds an MBA from Queen’s University and is a member of the Explorers Club.
He and his partner in adventure, Chantal, make their base camp in Squamish, nestled in BC’s rugged Coast Mountains and temperate rainforests.