Hiking mountains may come to mind naturally when you think of ways to decompress, reconnect, unwind, rejuvenate and more. Well, maybe being surrounded by mountainous landscapes, like the visuals on calming music videos come to thought before actually climbing mountains. We tend to find peace and serenity within the bounty of nature. I’ve been hiking mountains for just 3 years but on each mountain I’ve had a different experience with myself, an in-depth look and chance to reflect. More than once it has come to me the multitude of ways in which hiking heals. Below you will find a few I’ve collected along the way……
- The first step can be intimidating: When we look at the journey as a whole it can be stifling, it can make us want to quit before we even begin, assuming the climb has already defeated us. It is the first step that leads to the second and before you know it you’re on your way.
- One step at a time: The more we look up, the more focus we place on how long we still have to go. Focusing on each step helps us tame our wandering mind to the place we are, not the place we think we should be. Each step propels us forward. With our minds attention to the present, know assuredly we are moving onward and upward. The sun doesn’t rise in an instant.
- False summits: How many times in life do we think we have something figured out or think we’ve reached a pinnacle only to find another obstacle waiting for us? Many mountains will fool us into believing we are approaching the summit only to find ourselves at the beginning of a saddle ridge, and the bottom of another peak. Maybe this is where we finish the hike for the day – allowing ourselves an opportunity to honor where we are and how far we’ve come with the perseverance to want to try again. Or maybe this is the opportunity to push through and reach the peak. We have the freedom of choice as well as the freedom to honor ourselves. Extras challenges don’t have to disrupt our internal content and when they do we should use them as a way to check in with ourselves.
- Coming down: This can be especially challenging for those who are battling/have battled addiction, in addition to many other mental obstacles as the downs are not as sought after as the peaks. The summit can signify the end of what we were working toward, building our excitement and stamina toward. We learn the natural rhythm of the ups and downs in life, on the mountain, just as in the oceans tides. The more we open ourselves to experience this natural succession we broaden our understanding and strengthen our resilience to the impermanence of the highs.
When I was seventeen and visiting Santa Cruz, California someone mentioned to me a surf therapy program. A program where recovering addicts learned to surf, to paddle out, catch a wave, and replace their need to use substance with a need to surf. A new need to feel the adrenaline rush that comes from the strength to stand up and ride a wave. A lot of effort goes behind catching waves. That has always served as a source of inspiration for me. Climbing mountains could most definitely serve a very similar, yet profoundly lasting impact on one’s ability to overcome life’s obstacles as well as personal challenges.
How has hiking impacted your life?
If not hiking, what experience have you found to be transformative?