There’s something alluring about going for long walks/hikes/runs when the weather is least favorable for comfort and ease. Perhaps “alluring” is not the most appropriate word to describe the attraction- perhaps, “tempting.” Such elements throw unpredictable elements into what would be our normal groove. For those of us who on a bad day loathe the bore of routine, we rush out the door to make sure our regular run hits that perfect window of adventurous, sketchy opportunity. No longer will my afternoon cardio be the same-old-same-old. And no one else will find the moment glamorous except for me.
It’s like, you want Strava to include weather settings and calculate them into aspects your of Personal Bests. You didn’t just match your PB of three consecutive 6-minute miles with 300 ft of elevation gained…. You did it in 85% humidity and 93 degrees Fahrenheit. Does that not deserve its own category of difficulty to be factored in here?? You ran your longest run ever- great. You ran your longest run ever, AND, there were tornadoes afoot in a harrowing hailstorm? You bet your squat-busted ass you get extra points.
Oh, and don’t get any ideas; it’s *my* app. It’s called Adventure Strava, and I’m patenting it tomorrow. You’re too late. But you can buy it from me for 99 cents in the App Store. Jk. Unless Strava wants to get it together and just add it onto their already existing app.
I hear people complain all the time about conditions not being perfect for them to go outside and exercise. Of all the kinds of excuses I have to endure from others, this one is the most annoying to me. Fair weather is nice I suppose, but some of us just prefer a little more excitement or challenge. I sound like I don’t enjoy the bliss of a perfect Sunday afternoon in Spring, leisurely loping through the park with all the people and dogs and happy cute perfectness. I guess I appreciate endurance exercise in fair weather because it’s easier to just slip into a meditative state. Adrenaline state, on the other hand, is its own kind of flow state, and can serve an essential purpose just as well.
I slipped into such a meditative flow while hiking, not in the fair weather mind you, but rather in the sweltering heat and humidity of August in Arkansas. Oh, you’ve never been to Arkansas, you say? Our summers feel something like this: it’s the kind mugginess that weighs on your shoulders like a 50-lb pack; heat waves that extract every last ounce of fluid through your pores without offering the complimentary breeze or aridity to dry your skin; swarms of gnats and horseflies that worship you as the milk and honey of their existence… thanks to your well functioning sweat glands. Why people pay money to suffer sweat lodges and saunas, I’m not sure. The name “Arkansas” is actually derived from the Latin for “Mid-southern constant sauna.”
I’m not hating on those activities. In fact, I thoroughly enjoy a good sweat. It’s a physical expulsion of everything that seems nonphysical yet able to reside within the body.
I recently embarked on one of these long arduous wanders, greatly underestimating how far away my destination was. And I didn’t bring any water. It was THE hottest part of the day.
This is not a post to talk about “This was harder than the time I did Mt. Rainier in January,” or “This was just as intense as the other time that I ran 50 hours in the Mojave unassisted”. What made this walk important to me was the emotional release and slight epiphanies I had meanwhile. I don’t mean “release” in the sense that I simply felt better about some things that previously depressed me, but I was able to feel them fully and let them flow through without staying pent up.
Sometimes exercise is used as a distraction so that our emotions don’t feel too intense to handle. But on this particular day exercise (and the circumstantial conditions) was facilitating a really intense one of those emotional releases. I was trudging up this forever long hill, but slowed into a doubled over tear fest before long. It was less than dramatic, which left me uncompensated for the emptiness I felt. It was just an emotional release- not an emotional compensation for the recent unfolding of events in my life.
The next two hours of my hike was nothing uniquely special, except that the release had prompted a state of flow.
And two hours later I found myself thinking about why long walks/hikes are so apt to prep us for this meditative state. Recently, I have been trying to incorporate different meditation practices into my day. And then it hit me… The reason so many of us fail to reap a feeling of benefit or alignment (via epiphanies, understanding, healing, what have you…) through any kind of meditative practice is because we are TRYING.
These are all cliche adages we’ve heard before, but maybe juxtapose each other they will reveal newfound importance.
1. Stop trying and just BE.
2. All you have to do is SHOW UP.
Ok, maybe we all haven’t heard these things. I apologize if this is your first time reading those statements and they seem a bit out of context.
It was a bit strange to me how I could be perfectly familiar with the way of get myself into “flow” so easily, but seemed to struggle to stop doing everything else in order to do so. Seriously, how is doing absolutely nothing SO difficult for the majority of us, even though we know that meditating can bring all manner of benefit to our well being? When it comes to hiking or walking, I set out with no expectation to receive anything. I just go. I just show up on the trail. Whatever is going to happen, whatever I’m going to tune into while I’m going, it’s going to be there with or without me. But if I don’t attend, I lose out on any chance of experiencing whatever is there in that space at that moment. And as long as I am trying to find it, trying for anything, I’m not being.
This leads to one of the most important elements to the success of meditation in one’s life and it is the value of PRACTICE. When something becomes a habit, you have taken the sense of work out of it. There is no more trying, no more willpower needed, because you just show up. It your normal, your autopilot. You are not blocked by reevaluating your priorities, trying to convince yourself to spend your time doing this thing or that thing right now (or worse, waiting for someone else or some thing to make you do it!). TRYING is associated with the type of expectation that looks for what we think should be there, rather than just observing what is actually there.
So just be there. Every morning. Or every day. Or whenever you choose, just so long as you can make a habit of it. Because the habit will lead you to effortlessness.
Much love, grace, and fire to you on your journey. ❤
If you are interested in real life building rather than looking for illusory quick fixes that offer false sense of gratification, check out this blog on getting over the life hack craze! If you haven’t checked out The Rich Roll Podcast yet, you’re late! But not too late. 😉 Don’t worry, it was and is wildly popular and for good reason.