Monday, June 15, 2009

Hiking and Meditation

How are these two related?
I remember the first hike I had once my spring quarter ended in 2008. I was going through a rough patch in life and I hadn't hiked in a while. Going on in my mind was a lot of worries and fears.. What if? Will that happen? Oh my god, where is my Phd headed? You know, I was a good 'worrier'.

When I went hiking on that spring afternoon, I remember thinking, what the heck? So many thoughts rushing through my head and all of them are my fears and worries. All through my hike to the top of tiger mountain and back, I had these thoughts rushing through.. I was helpless, I was a mere observer. I wasn't engaging them, I wasn't doing anything, it was just happening.. I was a mere observer. Atleast I tried to be, but I was also worrying about these worrisome thoughts in my mind!! The next day, I went hiking again to a different place, and felt a little better. The next day, I went hiking to Wallace falls state park, it was raining all through, it was pouring, but I enjoyed the hike.

The connection between hiking and meditation is this: In the meditation I do, I just observe whatever thoughts are going on in my mind, passively, without engaging them.. This is also known as mindfulness meditation.
During my first hike, these thoughts were rushing through.. Being in nature, being in solitude, puts you in touch with your unwanted worries and fears.. That's why some people fear being alone.. They don't want to face their thoughts. Hiking in nature is like a soothing caress.
If there is excess baggage that you are carrying around in your mind, nature brings it out, so that you feel better at the end.. That's what happened to me during that hike.
This happened to my friend too.. He came hiking with me and he just couldn't stop talking.
I asked him to enjoy the hike but he said that if he stopped talking, he had to listen to all the chatter in his mind!! So he did the next best thing, listen to music on his mp3 player.

I remember another ocassion, I was very worried about something. I had to take a break and go for a walk. There was a trail near Udub I hadnt explored. I went in that direction, found that trail and that trail went to the edge of the lake union, beautiful place that is. In the beginning I was continuing my worrisome state, what if? Oh what should I be doing, etc. But as I entered the trail, my thoughts slowed down. I had a distinct recognition that I was more peaceful now than before.. I started enjoying the scenery around, I came back refreshed. Nature is a wonderful, nurturing place to be in.

Combining hiking and meditation. Since there is a definite parallel between hiking and meditation, why not combine them? Thats what I have been doing on my recent hikes.
Stop, and smell the flowers. Admire the tall tree. Be amazed by the different shades of green all around. Sit in a quiet spot on the trail, and just enjoy the silence. Enjoy and be grateful for the fact that you are in a wonderful place, right here, right now. Hiking, I love it.


Mary said...

Wonderful to see this post. Being in nature is also a meditation for me. I enjoyed two beautiful hikes this weekend. The sights of the trees and plants, sounds of the birds evoke so much joy, peace and gratitude in me. Thank you for describing it so well.

karthik said...

Thanks for your input. Glad you had two wonderful hikes! I had one too :)