I am on retreat at my wonderful spiritual center that crouches at the base of a mountain range towering over Montecito, CA and the distant Channel Islands. Every year, I make a self-pilgrimage to the top of El Cielo. It's a 4.3 mile hike from the center to the ridge line. This is my 16th year to begin my silence with this hike. In 1996 I started the hike because I was terrified to do it. Now I do it to prove to myself that I still can! Each year, it offers new challenges. The first hour is beside San Ysidro creek, the path stays pretty wide and the walk uphill has few boulders. But it's cool under the shelter of coastal oaks. However, turn away from the creek and the trail narrows into steep switchbacks. This has to be the hottest January on record. A blazing sun sears my jeans and jean shirt. I yearn for shorts and a lighter weight top. My legs feel heavier with each steps. My head pounds. What lessons will the mountain offer today? I come away with three: 1. To reach any goal, it always takes longer than you think it should. I swear each year they move the mountain top. My pace is better than in early years but my legs ache. But I am determined to reach the top. Just like I am determined to write the next book, to create new programs, to clean my office. You know the drill. I must build in extra time because it will always take longer. 2. Most people turn back when the "heat" is on. I realize that the only people I encounter are stopped at the upper most waterfall that because of a pitiful rainy season, is nothing more than a trickle. They miss the panorama of a Pacific ocean, flat and glassy, the Santa Barbara skyline and Ventura to the South. I was not prepared for the heat. There's a lesson right there! 3. Keep your eye on the right mountain. I almost turn back. I am so hot and aching. The ridge line seems so far away. Two more switchbacks and I realize I have been staring at the wrong peak. Might be someone else's goal but it is not mine. Wow. Where am I trying to climb someone else's mountain and not mine? So now, showered and tired, I will allow myself the luxury of a nap. A reward. What will you do to reward yourself this year when you climb your mountain?