Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Last week, I made my annual pilgrimage to Acadia National Park in Maine. I did four different hikes on this three day trip and each was amazing in its own way. What I love about Acadia is the dramatic vistas of ocean, mountain and forest. You can enjoy the thunderous collisions of waves against rock and also enjoy the quiet solitude of hiking through dense forest. The photo above is from the Acadia National Park website.
Hiking is one of my spiritual practices. By hiking in places of natural beauty, my soul is refreshed and renewed. However, a certain kind of awareness called "mindfulness" enhances the spiritual benefits of hiking (and other forms of activity, too). Mindfulness is being fully present in the present moment.
The key to hiking being a soulful experience is the attitude with which we do it. There are several ways to hike. A hike can be a race against other hikers where the goal is to finish as quickly as possible. A hike can become a time trial where the goal is to do your best time over a specific distance. A hike can also be done purely for exercise—to burn calories. A hike can also be done for spiritual nourishment.
When I hike mindfully, I am more aware of the natural beauty surrounding me. I notice the pattern of sunlight on the ground that filters through the branches of trees. I breathe in the musty forest air, rich with aromas of earth: decaying leaves, pine needles and evergreen cones. I look at the sky above the canopy of tree tops and marvel at the varying hues of blue and the puffy white clouds floating effortlessly. When hiking with this kind of awareness, I feel connected to the aliveness around me and feel more alert and alive within.
When it comes to spiritual practices, it's not so much what we do, but how we go about doing it. When we do something mindfully, we connect ourselves with what is holy, sacred and divine.