Vacation Lesson Number 3: Stop going somewhere

This morning Allee (the dog) and I set out to hike Dimple Hill. It is a good strenuous hike. Starting at the top of 29th Street, it is about 7 ½ miles round trip with a 1400 feet elevation gain. It took me just over 2 hours. I stopped to have a snack and try to do some video taping at the top of the hill. It started to snow while I was up there and I wasn’t dressed warmly enough. My fingers soon got too cold to operate the camera so I packed up and jogged lightly downhill until I warmed up again. My muscles are pleasantly sore now. My fingers are still a little uncoordinated. It feels good to be able to push my body. I am grateful for this ability to move. I am grateful for my health.

I watched my mind while I hiked. Hiking alone is one of the best times for observing my mind at work. My mind rarely slows down. I am blessed/cursed with an active verbal center and a quick processing left-brain. My mind quickly wraps itself around problems to seek solutions. When idlem, my mind begins to dither about planning the future, coming up with new ideas, and writing text for later (like this). Because of the arrival of Facebook in my life, my mind has been invited back to ponder friends from years and years ago. I find myself wondering if I should apologize for my adolescent behaviors or just let those sleeping dogs lie (like Allee is doing right now.)

Meditation is largely a process of watching the mind. Becoming still enough, undistracted enough, that you observe your own tendencies. Where does your mind go when you are still and quiet? What do you spontaneously think about? Rarely does our mind stay in the present moment. That is the next invitation of meditation: stay in the present moment: stop going somewhere else. You don’t need to sit cross legged on a pillow to meditate. You can meditate anywhere. Silence is helpful. Finding the place or activity that lets you watch your mind is very powerful.

I love being in the present moment in the woods. I love feeling the earth on the soles of my feet. Noticing the chill of the air on my skin. Listening to the sound of the wind moving through the trees, the crick and gaw as the trees sway, the babbling and cawing of birds, and the sound of water flowing downhill. I love feeling the depth of my breath, the beating of my heart, and the pump of my muscles. I love looking at the forest itself, the trees are still bare so that slits of blue grey sky show through; the ferns, moss and lichen lush and rich. And if I slow down and watch closely I see birds and small animals moving through the brush. I begin to notice the details of the forest landscape. It is awe-some.

And all of that observation might last for a minute or two before my mind starts planning again: What will be my next hike? How great a shape I would be in if I did this everyday? How can I arrange my life to hike more? I want to start that wilderness dance group… how will I make that happen? I brought the camera… what will I say for it? Do I want to tape a yoga practice or a teaching monologue.

Oh yeah, I’m on a hike: I bring my mind back to the moment. I take a deep breath and I return to the sensations of being a body in the woods. I enjoy a few minutes being right here, right now before my mind races off again. But in those few minutes there is such bliss, such joy, such awe and such ease. Those are the moments when I know true wealth: the wealth of simply being. I don’t need much in my life. A warm dry place to sleep, a decent pair of shoes, a good meal and good relationships are enough to make me feel wealthy. I am blessed to have those needs fully met. Everything else is a distraction.

Lesson of the day: Stop Going Somewhere. The joy is right here, right now. You have all the wealth you need.