Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mindful Hiking

Many cities are now offering mindful hiking/walking groups.  They meet every week or so and focus on tuning into Nature and socializing with each other around their observations of their walking experience.  It is a wonderful way to get some exercise, meet new people and practice staying "grounded" in the moment  while  filling up with the beauty of Nature.

Most of us, even when we are alone and quiet, spend too much time living in our heads, either dwelling on the past or anticipating the future.

Mindful hikes are meant to be an antidote to our work week.  When we go on a mindful hike, we  make a commitment to each other to live fully in the moment.  Instead of stomping down the trail, talking about beer, politics, footbal, or the ever popular, "where are you from," we remain focused on our senses- on what is happenign right here, right now.

Mindful doesn't mean silent.  We  share experiences, so if you see something interesting, even amazing, i.e. a beautiful  flower, an unusual tree or an animal track (especially an animal track) feel free to point it out quietly.   As we hike, check in with your senses.  What do you see, hear, smell, touch, taste, and feel?  How does the wind feel on your cheeks?  What flowers do you smell?  Is that an animal track on the ground in front of you?
Instead of thinking about what happened earlier, or imagining what will happen later, stay grounded in the moment.  As you engage in this awareness, you'll be amazed at the things you'll begin to see that you might otherwise have missed.  This practice helps many people feel a part of the natural world, rather than seperated from it.

One of the goals of these groups is to build  community.  At many of these events,  mindfulness is practiced exclusively on half of the hike, and  then people are encouraged to socialize for the remainder.  Often we find the shared experience of being open to nature builds a much deeper connection between people than simple conversaton.   Also, after many of these events, members plan to  go to a local resturant or watering hole to share some food and fellowship. Ideas get shared, plots get hatched, and other trips get planned.

If you can find an activity like this in your city, give it a try!  Or, join any hiking club and bring to it your own understanding and practice of mindfulness.  Others will benefit.


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