How I Found Inner Peace Along The Hiking Trail
“In every walk with nature, one finds far more than he seeks” – John Muir
The Simplicity of Inner Peace
It’s an early, crisp morning.
I’m having a cup of tea and lacing up my hiking boots.
Earlier, I found myself thinking about the dishes in the sink, the calls I have to make, the odd conversation I had a friend (and if I said the wrong thing?).
My thoughts can sometimes prattle on and on about everything and nothing.
The cure for this, I have come to learn, is a good hike.
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Stepping Into the Moment
Several years ago, I began hiking in a canyon near my home.
I wasn’t looking particularly to commune with nature but to get some fresh air and exercise.
I had never been the outdoorsy type but I thought I could benefit from a few good hikes.
I remember the first few times, I wore earphones and grooved out until I ran into someone who told me it was entirely unsafe to not be alert to the surroundings. I think that’s where it began.
I began to walk without headphones and it gave me the opportunity to observe.
I found certain birds liked certain trees. I found lizards would run into the brush long before I crossed their paths. I began to hear the song of the leaves swaying. These hikes were calming and seemed to turn the volume down on my rambling thoughts.
Be Here Now
When my thoughts would begin to make it difficult to observe, I took my meditation mantra with me on the trail. Brilliant in it’s simplicity, Baba Ram Das’ “Be here now” was the phrase I began repeating every time I took a breath, every time I took a step.
Along those trails, I hiked under blue skies and sunshine. I came across a fallen trees, streams, and wild sage growing without end.
I connected with deer, birds, reptiles and once, a beautiful bobcat and I had a moment along the path.
Along those trails, I found a quieter, calmer, more aware version of myself.
Through this sort of moving meditation, I found the ability to approach daily life with that same sense of observation and awareness.
In Zen tradition, Kinhin is the the practice of walking meditation. Putting one foot in front of the other, breathing in sync with your steps, and being fully aware of the body’s motion is the practice.
In a gaze meditation, there is a single object that is the focus. Conversely in Kinhin, the sights and sounds and movement are all unified as the focus.
Nowadays, I live, hike, and mediate in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Today, I’ll hike a bit of the Mountain to Sea trail. I’m grateful for another day to spend connecting with myself in this beautiful space. Meditation doesn’t always look like sitting on a pillow in full lotus. Mediation sometimes looks like a walk in the woods.
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