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Lions Roar : July 2019
You’d think I’d be constantly anxious, but because of my meditation practice I was able to focus on the present moment. I could recognize that every- thing was temporary, both the calm and the intense moments, and I think that was the difference between success and failure. In the last thirty-two hours, you did a final eighty-mile push to the finish. What was going through your mind as you did? It was Christmas Day and when I got up that morn- ing, I did some math. Typically, I was traveling twelve or thirteen hours per day and covering about twenty or twenty-five miles, so I knew it would probably take about three full days at my current pace to cover the last eighty miles. But I thought: what if I just keep going? When I decided to do that, it felt like all of the lessons throughout my life had stacked into this one moment of high performance. It was the five-year- old kid who jumped first into the swimming pool. It was lessons from interpersonal relationships. It was my meditation practice. It was all of these moments together. One of the worst storms of the entire expedition kicked up around hour eighteen, but I was focused, calm, and confident in my body and spirit. I knew I an inner journey, and I wanted to know how that would unfold, so I started training. How do you define what an “explorer” does? It’s about exploring a place that’s totally unknown. But when I was in Antarctica, I wasn’t walking into the unknown. I had a really accurate map and a GPS. It was more an exploration of that reservoir of potential inside of us. Most people won’t walk across Antarctica by themselves, but we all have minds that control how we react to situations. I wanted to explore the limits of my body and my mind. Being in that environment was a way of ask- ing myself, “Can I be quiet and calm, even during external storms?” How did Vipassana help you during this exploration? I can’t imagine being alone in Antarctica for fifty- four days if I hadn’t trained my mind. I spent about 90 percent of my time in silence. The sun never moves in Antarctica at that time of year—it’s directly overhead all the time. It’s this expansive white land- scape and there’s not much to see. Being in silence almost the entire time, although very challenging and unfamiliar, was actually one of the most inter- esting experiences of my life. Below: On day twenty-seven , O’Brady encountered severe whiteout conditions and a broken ski. Forced to stop, he set up camp and repaired his equipment. “A small setback that made me even more hungry to keep moving forward,” he said.