“The air that day in Nepal was hot, and it was very still in spots. There was no breeze – not what I had expected as we climbed a mountain. In my head, I had anticipated some coolness in the air. As we moved higher in elevation, the sun beat down on our exposed skin. The tops of my hands began to burn as I gripped my trekking poles, and the bottoms of my feet slid recklessly across the loose gravel and slick goat trails. I knew this trip would be challenging and test me mentally… I also knew the challenges I’d face would not always be the ones I expected or prepared for. Nepal did not disappoint. My 2022 Misogi was truly testing me…”
If you’ve followed me or spent time around me, you’ve heard me reference the Misogi Challenge. It’s a concept I picked up from Jesse Itzler and have worked to weave into my life each year since. In short, the Misogi involves choosing to do something memorable each year that will define those 365 days for you – something that scares you and seems almost impossible. It should push your limits with a 50/50 chance of success. It should scare you a bit. And, the Misogi should be for you, not anyone else.
With roots in Japanese culture, the Misogi began as an ancient and annual purification ritual that involves one making a journey to a sacred waterfall and standing beneath the icy water. It’s thought to wash away defilements, remove obstacles, and create separation between individuals and negativity in their lives.
Itzler’s take on the Misogi is different and not tied to Japanese spirituality. There is, however, an element of mental purification that comes with intentionally exposing oneself to challenging things. That’s what I experienced in Nepal.
It began with a “Yes.”
This year’s Misogi experience began over the summer. A group of guys invited me to trek through Nepal with them. They had been there before and opened the door for me to join them as they had in years past. The difference this year, simply put, was that I said “yes” to their invitation. Instead of making excuses for not going, everything changed when I committed to trekking with them.
There’s a school of thought regarding the Misogi that you shouldn’t train. Instead, you should dive into whatever challenge you’re taking on and see what happens. My take on this was a little different, and I knew that trekking up and down the mountains would require me to find a new gear I had yet to tap into. With that in mind, I spent my summer mornings hiking up and down the grassy ski hills of Minnesota. Each morning, often in the dark and stillness of 5 AM, I trained my lungs and legs for my Misogi. I trained alone and alongside the guys I’d be traveling with, and together we prepared ourselves for what we’d encounter in the mountains of Nepal. That training paid huge dividends.
I had not asked much about where in Nepal we’d be traveling. I learned enough about our trip to develop some level of expectation but I also left room for some surprises along the way. One of the biggest ones was where in Nepal we ended up trekking. Rather than an adventure leading us toward Everest Base Camp or the Annapurna Circuit, where most people go, we journeyed south. Having watched video after video on Nepal trekking, the area I was now moving through was very different than what I had prepared for. The result of that twist was amazing. I ended up stepping into a part of the world that tourists don’t generally see, truly off the beaten path. Every step reminded me of that.
As I recapped the trek on a recent episode of the Grit Meets Growth podcast, I shared that all of the wins and losses on this trip happened in my head. Of all the hard things I encountered on the trail, the greatest challenges were mental, not physical. Over and over again, it came down to controlling how I would react to things that stirred up fear and resistance inside:
- Walking along the fifty-foot vertical drop
- Squatting in the latrine alongside a massive spider
- Hiking through the heat with forty pounds on my back
- Spending a week with no digital connection to the outside world
- The thirty-plus hours of travel to get to the trail
These battles were all waged in my head. Physically, I could do everything that my Misogi required of me. There were times when it tested my physical strength, yes. Mentally, though, each day brought things that required me to make tough decisions. The mental battles were the ones that tested me the most. In true Misogi fashion, success was not guaranteed, and fear was part of the experience.
I came back purified, not in the traditional Japanese sense, but in my own way. The mental and physical challenges forced me to explore my edges. Preparing for the trip made me appreciate how hard work leads to results. I learned to appreciate contentment through the Nepalese people I met along the way. I found new ways to face my fears and walk through them. Along the way, I tapped into my faith and relationship with God at new levels.
My Misogi experience all began with that simple “Yes.” That’s my encouragement to you today… Find your Misogi. Maybe it’s something you do yet this year, or you put something on the calendar for next year. Either way, don’t let another year slip past without doing one thing that is memorable and defines your 365 for you. In 2022, I trekked through Nepal. That’s how I will always define my year. How will you define yours? You get to decide. The choice is yours… don’t miss the opportunity.
Curious about the Misogi Challenge? Here are the first two posts I wrote about my introduction to it and my initial Misogi experiences…
Ready for more?