There’s a lot of talk these days about yoga, meditation, karma and such.
Most is good, I am sure.
But, I wonder how many hikers realize just how spiritual your hiking can be?
I began toying with meditation and spiritual practices back in the mid-1950s.
In those days words like “meditation” and “yoga” were not even in our dictionaries.
I tried a lot of different ways of doing them and gained something from them all.
And eventually, along the way I became serious about it.
I didn’t realize until a few years ago just how far my love of the forests, streams and mountains could take me into the spiritual side of life — with no special effort, along the road to enlightenment.
Putting the two together, though, is what gave me truly solid glimpses into the realm of the spirit.
It’s dawned on me recently, that I have some rather solid suggestions for hikers on how to deepen their connection with the spiritual world.
It doesn’t take much. But it does do some taking.
So, I am going to offer some posts, beginning with this one, on ways that have worked for me, and may well work for you.
Easy Does It
- Before you begin your hike take a quick inventory of your motives for being out on the trail.
If you are hiking to set a time or distance comparison with other hikers or even compared to your own records, then STOP. Skip the rest of this post and come back on another day when you want to devote more time to the spirituality of the present moment.
Okay, so you choose to continue today with my suggestions.
The first thing you want to do at the trailhead is to take a full few minutes break.
We will do a simple exercise to set a tone for the rest of the hike.
2. Step aside from the trail, perhaps a bit distant from it so as not to draw too much attention to yourself.
Then, with eyes closed, allow the listening to open as wide as you possibly can, allowing all sounds to come and go as freely as the wind.
Feel the feet upon the ground.
Notice the gentle play of air on the bare hands and face.
Just allow the senses to take in all sounds and feelings. Stay with them for a few moments, allowing all thoughts to continue on their way, paying no attention to them as they whisk away on the wind.
Without resorting to your watch, allow yourself to stay as open as you can for “a few moments.”
I put those words in quotes for a reason.
“A few moments” are as long a duration as you feel comfortable with. Not to worry about how long that is or isn’t.
The point of such an exercise is to give you a moment’s freedom from the usual chatter that goes on in the head.
3. Begin your hike.
If you are able to comfortably allow yourself to remain open to the senses, then do so as you hike, feeling the feet treading upon the trail, the fabric of your clothes against the skin, wherever you notice, feel the breezes on face and bare hands.
With listening open wide, see the texture of the trail, the trees, the surroundings.
4. Do not sweat it or strain for it.
Just allow these two practices to work the best they can for whatever time they stay with you. If they are pleasant, you may want to try them on other hikes you take.
5. After you have done these practices a few times you may want to expand them a bit.
A splendid way of doing this, is to bring the entire body into a mind’s eye view. Hold it in view, if you can.
6. Do not worry if it goes away and if it is difficult to bring it back into view.
You will know it, if you are able to bring it into view. And it will disappear quickly, when you do.
I think of it as, “being aware of Bill” hiking. It is a subtle awareness. I’ve never found it to become very vivid. It is something like observing myself hiking, as if looking over my shoulder at Bill hiking.
Try not to talk about it. You’ll understand why when you’ve had this awareness. It escapes words. Only you know if you’ve experienced it or not.
And trying to do it, usually brings failure. So, we’re dealing with some subtle, ephemeral experiences.
The moment you try to put it into words, you’ll know that that isn’t it.
There are benefits of these practices if you get into the habit of doing them.
Other things in life will not seem so important and bothersome.
But on this, do not listen to me. Just see what happens for you.
And most important, enjoy your hike!