I have been doing wilderness hikes with my son for quite a few years now. I cherish the opportunity to spend those summer days exploring trails and vistas deep in Washington state’s national parks and wilderness areas.
There are many things to do to get ready for a trip: We Plan out and dehydrate our meals, pick a route, get maps, check with the local rangers on trial conditions and so forth. Lots of thought goes into what we need to bring. Bring too much clothing, etc. can lead to regrets after carrying a heavy backpack for many, many miles.
On our hikes, we are taking a step back into our human past. True, we are not the hunter-gathers of old as we bring our well-prepared food along, but we are removing ourselves from all the predictability and routines that define modern life. We now divide life into simple categories: how far to hike, where to set up camp, when to eat and how far to hike the next day. The routines of our everyday life recedes into the background.
We simply focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Our most urgent concern is often how far is it to the next creek to replenish our dwindling water supply.
As we hike I have plenty of time to reflect on my life. Am I living the life I truly want? Am I following my “true north”? That is following the pull inside me. The pull to what is truly important and right for me to focus on in my life.
Have I been putting off or ignoring the people or things I need to attend to? These can be in either my personal or professional life. As the miles pile up and the days go on I immerse myself in my own thoughts. I freely explore my interactions with loved ones or clients that have been less that satisfactory for whatever reason. Have I been too hard or perhaps too easy with myself related to commitments, goals and relationships?
I move through the days, hiking, resting, eating and making camp. Conversations between the two of are rich at times but often there is silence. And that silence between myself and my son is echoed by the silence of the natural world. Except for the buzzing insects, the wind rustling through the trees and the occasional cry of birds there is stillness. I let my body carry me forward, aware of the joys of movement, the slow progress that adds up to miles traveled and sights seen. And on the inside, I reflect on my progress through the life I am living.
Henry David Thoreau wrote in On Golden Pond, “I learned this at least by my experiment that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life that he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
I felt a kinship with Thoreau as I hike and explored nature. The experience did create in me a space to imagine more fully the life I want to be living. And it gave me the opportunity to find the missing pieces I need to address to make my life a success I can live out daily.
In fact, one of my awareness’s was to spend more time in the wild. Here in the Pacific Northwest it is easy to confine hikes to the dry summer months and otherwise staying indoors. My psyche will benefit from some winter hikes. Snowshoeing trips to embrace the cold and anticipate the joy of returning to my warm home will shake lose my unconscious thoughts and feelings. Those hikes connect me to joy so why not have more of them?
Maybe you can take the time to hike, walk and reflect. I wonder what you might discover about your journey through life. Think about what you need to change to make it the one you truly want to be living.
Watch the video below.