Different Modes of Exploration #13: Walking Mindfully
Not only am I examining a different mode of exploring in this post, but I’m also attempting a new form for this narrative, something along the lines of “traveling aphorisms,” (a new coinage). Last week, I went out for a trail run/hike and covered about 11 miles in a little more than 2 hours. Though I saw a great deal of new wilderness during this adventure, I recognized that a lot of my thoughts slipped by as quickly as my feet were moving.
Over the summer, I’ve been studying mindfulness extensively and the trail is a good place to practice these lessons. Moving at the trail running pace, I’m mindful of every movement, (I have to be for my own safety), but I began to wonder if I might focus my mindfulness even more by moving at a much slower rate. I found another trailhead about twenty minutes away and spent over an hour walking one mile.
I really slowed down my pace on the return, walking 100 feet, stopping, breathing, refocusing, and then writing down some of my observations. This meticulous, steady, mellow mode of exploration revealed some compelling insights to me. And this week, I’ll take the great risk as a writer and share:
Turn Around Point/Rest Stop/High Point of Walk
Suddenly remembering, I am a body. There is blood pumping through these veins, a heart that pounds, feet that touch the earth, a pulse that connects, lungs that soak in air, (warm, cool, fresh and smoggy). I remember my ears, hear grass moving in the breeze, early fall leaves crinkling, juniper branches whistling, cars and traffic. People moving.
An old Ponderosa, the only one on this hill, is dead now, yet its branches still cast shadows, offering a shady, relaxing spot to sit and do this.
Rocks echo to our geologic past. Lichen in yellow, green, amber, and blue glow from primal, early life. The wind particles I breath in fresh, were always here.
It is hard not to think ancient thoughts.
Drying, turning leaves: there are cycles, things are impermanent, yet they return, changed, they continue.
The path to the dead tree existed, others had been there before.
I want to and attempt to ignore the air brakes of semi-trucks and the passing of cars. But they are there. I cannot.
My type-A personality fights this mode of exploration. I watch time closely. I must not.
Biodiversity. A multitude of plants, and organisms I can not see. Ravens in the distance, insects on the wind, bicyclists powering up the trail, (also not ignorable). We are all here.
I can feel my entire body, but then I can make it go away. I can feel my mind, and then I get stuck there.
The parking lot is close, but far at this speed. My calves burn in the sun.
I have fears of being too esoteric in this. Bees lifting from dying flowers, re-awakening.
Coyote scat. Human footprints. This trail is layered, reveals that many have come here before me. Moments ago, years beyond.
With focus on my feet, because this trail is rocky, I worry about what I’ll miss by not looking around. But if I don’t focus I might miss that even more important something, like that cactus in the path.
Sitting beneath it, I didn’t know that the Ponderosa was at the top of a knoll. Looking back up at it now, my perception is changed. It truly is a sentinel.
“I must be home before 3:30,” the one man says to the others, “but you guys can keep riding if you want.” Time runs our lives.
With all this writing, I forgot to breath. I forgot to smile. And that was the point.
A bag of dog poop. Others forgot their trash. What did I forget?
From this giant Juniper, to the anthill at my feet, life persists.
As people catch-up to me from behind, watch from their big bay windows in their mansion across the gulch, I fear judgement as they wonder what I’m doing. How vain. As if they’ll take notice.
I feel wind picking up, rain on my skin, the earth at my feet. My heart pounds again.
I have arrived. Breathing, smiling, content. But still ignoring that smell of the port-a-potty in the sun.