It’s a sobering energy, a disengaged presence, beautiful, but unaware of its beauty, peaceful, and unconcerned whether you come or go, relax or fret, in fact live or die, the difference immaterial. Not even uncaring—simply not caring, the concept of caring in that sense beyond its nature. Here, you are irrelevant.
When I was escaping from the city to the mountains, I found there was a consistent rhythm to my hikes. The first two hours were largely settling into the natural setting, shifting from frazzled to relaxing. Hours two to four were about being in the experience, the heart of the hike. My head would be full of the problems at home, swirling about, but I was hiking along, enjoying the walk.
But something regularly shifted for me at the sixth hour. It was here that suddenly the mental clouds parted, and challenges that had seemed complicated and tangled would abruptly clear. Solutions just bubbled up, simple and straight-forward paths, effortlessly conjured with no effort on my part—if you don’t count the six hours of hiking. It was hard to imagine what I had ever found difficult about these problems. (If you’re wondering—the eighth hour was about being tired and ready to get back to the car for the day!)
As my life simplified—and probably as I matured as well—I didn’t face knotty problems so often, at least not the twisted obsessive what-am-I-going-to-do kinds. But from time to time issues would arise that weren’t resolved with patience and critical reflection, and I learned to take these intentionally to the mountains (or at least to the wilderness, mountain or no), deliberately planning a six-eight hour day or more specifically to give myself time to get into this position of clarity and focus.
Long walks alone, though, don’t do the job. I live in a beautiful county with many lovely trails, and on a day when I don’t want to travel, I can walk all day in peace. Sometimes I do, and I appreciate that peace and beauty. But other than the benefits of relaxation, it doesn’t bring the same balance and clarity.
The wilderness is different. It’s a different kind of quiet, an untamed balance, not a cultivated garden (which certainly have their own charm and beauty), but more of a state of being, of something inherent in its existence. It’s not shaped—it just is. Nor am I romanticizing. It’s a sobering energy, a disengaged presence, beautiful, but unaware of its beauty, peaceful, and unconcerned whether you come or go, relax or fret, in fact live or die, the difference immaterial. Not even uncaring—simply not caring, the concept of caring in that sense beyond its nature. Here, you are irrelevant. The problems you carry in even more so. Not even enough to be silly.
When I took all-weather backpacking trips, this reality was part of the centering. Hike in, and then set about properly pitching the tent in a dry/safe area, preparing dinner on the tiny backpacking stove, hanging the food high between trees to keep it from bears and raccoons, getting out of the day’s clothes and into fresh dry ones, and all in order and quickly, because if I didn’t do all these things—I would die (of hypothermia). That’s a focusing principle, especially those trips in December/January (one way to beat the holiday stress). It was actually part of the allure—such straight-forward necessities were a relief from the perceived problems from which I was escaping for a few weeks.
Today I experience the centering of wilderness in less extreme day trips. The energy, though, is the same as when I was running from my own mountains of stress. That quiet, detached calm pervades, and that clear, stark mirror reflects only what is, and not what we make of it or try to see in it. There is only truth, without ego—something that’s hard to see in our daily spaces.
The photo is a view toward Elk Lake on the way up Dix Mountain.
Please share your experiences and thoughts in the comments. I’d love to see them.
Are you interested in hearing more about Wilderness Hikes as projects evolve in the future? Let me know here, so I have a list of those interested ready to go, by clicking here (and page all the way down to click “Sign Up” at the bottom):
Join the “Wilderness Hike” list.
If you’d like to hear about my “Getting Unstuck” book as it gets closer to release, let me know by clicking here (and you’re welcome to do *both,* of course–page all the way down to click “Sign Up” at the bottom):
Join the “Getting Unstuck” list.
October 2012 is a series of daily posts about “A Wilderness Hike,” taking readers through the healing of wilderness experience and glimpses of my work at Kwan Yin Healing and of my book, “Getting Unstuck.”
You can read the series from the start via the links here:
Oct. 1: A Wilderness Hike
Oct. 2: The Sixth Hour
Oct. 3: Snowy Mountain
Oct. 4: Letting Go of Baggage–the Wilderness Way
Oct. 5: “Bear” the Thought
Oct. 6: Mountain. Buddha. Impermanence.
Oct. 7: The Rewards of Rain
Oct. 8: Finding the Keys
Oct. 9: “I’d love to, but times are bad.”
Oct. 10: Attracting the Law of Attraction
Oct. 11: We are not our thoughts
Oct. 12: Honesty, Forgiveness, Healing
Oct. 13: Getting Unstuck: Feeling Overwhelmed
Oct. 14: Money is remarkably easy to come by, if that’s all you want.
Oct. 15: To be Time Rich, Learn to Be
Oct. 16: Changing Thoughts for Changing Work
Oct. 17: Finding and Sharing your Gifts
Oct. 18: Do you want to be the boss? Be sure you want to run the show.
Oct. 19: Finding jobs within jobs
Oct. 20: Bright Mountain Dream
Oct. 21: Escape the Wilderness of Addictions
Oct. 22: The Importance of Spiritual Direction
Oct. 23: In Search of Enlightenment
Oct. 24: Relationship Thoughts from the Wilderness
Oct. 25: We learn in realtionships
Oct. 26: Chrysalis
Oct. 27: Self-Healing, part 1
Oct. 28: Self-Healing, part 2: Time for a new perspective
Oct. 29: Dix Mountain
Oct. 30: The Mist-Filled Path
Oct. 31: From Wilderness to Wondrousness