Chiropractic, the Summitless Mountain ©
From Engineer to Manly’s Gentle Chiropractor.
My tax accountant peered over his glasses from across the table and, with as much levity as becomes a tax accountant, smirked, “Your little engineering business is quite successful Andrew”.
This didn’t really feel successful. Sure the money was rolling in, but how many shirts can a man wear? Life is short, just an instant in eternity, and the jewels that adorn you adorn another in the passing of that instant. So how does one define success? The epitaph of, “His little engineering business was quite successful” isn’t something I aspired to.
I was still coming to terms with ‘success’, when he hit me with the accountant’s version of a left hook, “I think we need to set up a fund for your retirement. Now is a good time to start planning that”.
Whoa! My life flashed before me. So this is success? Day after day same-ness whilst planning for the end and leasing increasingly more expensive European cars in an effort to feel like I had bettered the taxman?
Wait a minute. I had been here before…
Rock-climbing has been a passion of mine for many years. A vertical escape where an afternoon cheating gravity polarises the horizontal world, bringing pause and perspective to those stresses of modern life. Bombarding the senses and unleashing endorphins; the feel of the rock under your fingertips. Your whole life channeled into the contact of your fingertips as the smell of the eucalypts and the call of the bellbirds rise from the valley far, far below. The nature, the characters you meet and the experiences you share make this a special pursuit.
Your very existence often distilled down to a single move on a two hundred metre rock face, with the momentary realisation that one mistake made here and it’s all over. Oh well, we all die. But how many of us truly live? In that moment both the demons of the past and the worries of the future are blown away. All that is left is the present.
Serenity and terror, all at once in copious servings.
Repeat and stir, then finally we reach the summit and, it is done. So begins the post-climb recounting in the company of fellow escapees. Grazed knuckles gripping a cheap bottle of red, the other hand melting cheese-on-toast over a camp fire and watching the sunset cast alpenglow across the vast sandstone cliff faces.
Ahhh yes. ‘The summit buzz’.
But here’s the thing about summits. After a while they all kinda look the same. Be it a leafy ledge atop a towering rock face at the back of Blackheath or a coffee table sized pad of snow on a peak in the New Zealand Alps. After the summit what is there? You can’t stay up on the summit, so why bother? There is a sameness about summits that eventually dulls the experience to the point where you could just walk away from the whole circus. So if not for the summit, why do we climb?
Ask and the universe answers.
We were nearing the top of a day-long climb in the Blue Mountains. The skies had previously dumped on us as a storm ran across the Jamison valley. We had even been strafed by lightning, which is of concern when you’re perched high on an otherwise flat cliff face, dripping wet and wearing a load of metallic climbing gear around your waist. We were off-route and mildly lost.
Our only exit was up a long vertical open corner that, if dry, should have been fairly straightforward.
The storm had passed as quickly as it arrived. Late afternoon sun now peeking from behind the clouds and warming the side of my neck as I hung on the wall from two small anchors. My climbing partner was far above out of view, struggling slowly up the soggy corner as I payed out the rope for him.
Leaning back in my harness I swiveled around to take in the view when, from below, a large bird of prey floated up majestically on a thermal. It paused weightlessly at eye level, only a few wingspans out from the cliff. I was transfixed and we just stared at each other as time stilled.
Satisfied that I was no threat, nor much of a meal, it tilted its head and arced gracefully into the yawning void, breaking the spell. You couldn’t buy that moment with all the gold in the world, you couldn’t repeat it if you tried.
I realised then that my focus was all wrong, the reason I climb isn’t the summit. It’s somewhere between the base and the summit. It’s the experiences we have along the way. Not just the things we see around us but, more importantly, the glimpses of what lies within us.
It’s in the doing; it’s the triumphs and the trials that make it so worthwhile. The journey is the juice of life, not the destination.
Climbing had taught me this.
The accountant mentioned something about capital gains tax, but I wasn’t paying attention anymore, now only thinking to myself how things had to change.
Clarity is a gift which can release a stored potential in us, unleashing a resultant kinetic energy that may be of amplitude too strong to ignore. An unstoppable force had just been set in motion, no longer dormant within me. But now that force needed direction.
What can an unstoppable force achieve?
Chomalungma (Mt Everest) is the highest peak in that famous mountain range called the Himalaya. But it wasn’t always so. Once, long ago, there was no mountain range at all, just an unstoppable force. This force brought portions of our world together, compressing them and allowing them to interact until they had nowhere to go but up.
The unstoppable force continued through the ages, pure in its intent. The result of force acting upon matter has given us a mountain of unequaled grandeur.
Some worship this mountain as a goddess, others go there seeking challenge or to find more of themselves. Whatever the reasons, all who spend time in that place cannot help but come away changed. A single force, pure in its intent can change the very face of the earth and inspire great acts. To this day the unstoppable force is still there, and the mountain is still growing.
How best to direct my force?
No one knows what happens after our journey here comes to an end, and it doesn’t really matter to me. Though I’m fairly sure you don’t take anything with you. So if the purpose isn’t to take anything, it would seem apparent that our purpose here must be to give.
It was time to find a way in which to express my purpose. I certainly didn’t seek an occupation where going through the motions and planning to retire are the only things on offer. The goal was an endeavour that I could love, hold great passion for and immerse myself into. So the search began to find that which I would love to do and where the doing is the reward. No retirement plans, no sunset clauses.
Being an engineer, mechanisms always held an interest for me and there is no more elegant machine in the universe than that of the human bodymind. In fact, you start out looking at it like any other machine but you soon come to a realisation…
We’re not like a wristwatch – we’re more like the weather.
In the search for a new direction I looked into medicine, spoke with Doctors and observed at hospitals but walked away disappointed. This was not what I imagined when I thought of a Doctor. The engineering industry had already shown what it means to be a small component in a big broken machine and the medical industry looked like more of the same. It became apparent that this was really a search for me.
Time to dream another dream.
I happened to spend time under the care of a Chiropractor for a previous motorsport induced spinal injury and experienced ‘miracle’ results. The results were a ‘miracle’ in that my GP had said the pain and lack of mobility were normal for an injury such as this, and to expect it to get worse in the future.
Of course, Chiropractors don’t create ‘miracles’, but they do hold a vitalistic space where miracles might just happen to manifest.
After only two months of Chiropractic care my spine had become more supple than it had been in ten years. Not only that but something else had also changed, it was as if I’d regained an emotional spectrum. No longer did every experience result in the same shrug of the shoulders – joy and sadness were once again part of my cognitive vocabulary.
As was the ability to act, not simply react.
We can only act on our current perception of the reality we think we are experiencing. So, when you think about it, what is the world but the collected perceptions of all our current realities?
How do we perceive our reality, how do we act and create our reality? Science tells us we perceive our surroundings via our senses and thereby through our nervous systems.
If a doctor were to concern himself with liberating forces within the nerve system, he would be providing people with an opportunity to enjoy a clearer more pure reality. A greater clarity to navigate the journey, with a greater purity of thought and action. An opportunity for clarity is an opportunity to improve your world.
Clarity is the catalyst of positive change.
After seeking counsel with numerous Chiropractors, reading books on the topic and meeting Chiropractic students. I realised a Chiropractor was what I thought of when I pictured a Doctor. Chiropractic is a profession that can change the world. Here was the start of a new journey.
I had found the perfect mountain.
The mountain of Chiropractic continues up far beyond where our present vision allows us to see. This mountain stands solid for all humanity and, whatever your perspective, it is a thing of beauty. Most importantly, this is a mountain with no summit.
We are all on the mountain. You may remember the day you took your first step up onto it. You climbed for a while, paused then found yourself lost and exposed in the middle of a frightening expansive mountain side. Fear not, simply do as climbers have always done when lost high up on the hill. We head for one of the ridges.
Our mountain is a pyramid with a triangular base – a tetrahedron. It has 3 ridges, all leading upward. They are known as the Science, Art and Philosophy of Chiropractic. Follow one of these for a while, apply yourself fully and you will once again find yourself ascending with ease.
But climb with care, though the ridge may offer security, always seek the courage to leave this comfort and allow yourself to head back out onto the face. It is only here on the open face of the mountain that you may set your own course and master your own journey. The ridge lines will always be there as needed. Ensure you explore each one of them and everything in between to discover all that this wonderful peak has to offer.
When on the mountain, climbers use a rope to secure their way. We take it for granted, but there is sanctity to this simple piece of equipment. As you and your partner tie-in to each end of the rope at the beginning of a climb you are entering into an unspoken agreement that is sacred. This act is a contract, a promise to help each other through anything that should lie ahead. It’s a vow to work together, to inspire each other, to congratulate or provide support. Climbers call this institution ‘the marriage of the rope’.
So do not think it is all over, if at times you feel like there is no way up. Or if you find that you are unable to pass a crux on difficult new terrain. Just look around you and see the connections; the family, the colleagues, the patients, the teachers, the students. You will see us all there, climbing partners sharing the experience of the mountain. Always ready to offer support until you regain your footing. On this mountain we are working as a team and we are all heading upwards. The marriage of the rope is literally, ‘for life’.
What is it that exists high up on this mountain you may wonder?
What has been seen by those who have climbed ahead of us, climbed higher than us? My journey has already brought many valuable experiences; some of these include the privilege of meeting and sharing time with great Chiropractic minds. I have chanced to ask them these very questions about what is up ahead. When sharing their wisdom in reply, the masters never speak of a summit, nor of ever nearing it. They speak only of the continuing journey to higher ground and their aspirations for the future ascent.
One insight I have come to realise is that the act of climbing higher is the very thing which builds our mountain, and because of this we cannot be separated from it. We are not on the mountain of Chiropractic – we are that mountain. The higher one of us climbs, the higher we can all climb.
Wherever it is that your journey takes you, whatever you are searching for and whatever you might discover. May I wish you good fortune and leave you with these simple words…
“Advance confidently in the direction of your own dreams. Endeavour to live the life you have imagined and you will meet with a success unexpected in common hours” – Thoreau.
See you soon on this summitless mountain – climb well!