Tag Archives: nature

Go to the empty places

January is empty for reservoirs. They hold the void. There is no water, wake, or waves. Hardly anyone is there. You’d see them if they were; there’s nowhere to hide.

I tromped around wondering about the emptiness. Which reminded me of the importance of being empty.

My friend recommends going into a room empty. Especially when offering support. Hold the space, but don’t fill it.
Here in this expanse void of water, I fill up on empty. I also feel it. It’s sort of nice to jump into. It radiates something, even if it looks barren and not promising at first glance.

January is not the same as July. No fishing, paddling, skiing, or swimming is happening. It’s a forced stop of action, or yang. The reservoir is taking a break, restoring its yin. And by being here now, I follow. I move in step with January. This is what’s happening.

What is there to do? Visit it. See it in its current state.  Without. This leads to about one thing- walking around and observing what is contained in the emptiness.

Things seen were old shoes,  wood, grasses, rocks, tires, beer bottles, plastic bags. Mud.

What to do when something doesn’t float our boat? Out of water? It does not fill any expectations.

When the water is low, or mostly gone, we can see the bottom. It’s a good reference point.  What I like about this connection is it feels closer to the Dao. The ancient advice went something like, “be low, like water. Be close to the lowest points.” Walking a more humble and quiet route was encouraged, nothing much about running up mountains, pumping your fists. Instead flow like water, adapt to whatever shape you encounter.  Just my loose interpretation.

The bits of wood gathered around the edges are connected to the earth this time of year. They lie there exposed. They are not covered by the muffle of water. There is no light and liquid creating beautiful illusions to mesh with. Most will float up again in a few months and ride the water and watch the sky.

What I like about the seasons is it’s not about me. It’s about everything. The status and state of everything, of which I am just passing through. I can appreciate it or I can complain about it. It’s a choice.

 

What is mental health?

We went from headaches to mental health fairly quickly. I asked him what he did for his own mental health? His answer: “I don’t know what it is.” Fair enough. An honest answer! A few beats passed and he asked, what do YOU do for your mental health? Touché!

I told him that for my mental health, I exercise, hang out with uplifting people, do arty stuff, meditate.

He perked up about the meditation. He said he tried it but it didn’t work. He had done it twice, each time for 2 hours. I told him that was very ambitious! How about shorter, like 10-15 minutes a day?

He asked how does it feel, when you are in the zone of meditation? This is a good question and I wasn’t sure how to answer. English was not his first language so when I used words like peaceful, it didn’t fly. So, I motioned like I was unscrewing the top of my head, and said, “it’s like if you took the top of your head off and poured fresh water through it; rinsed it out with water and light.

His eyes lit up and he said, “oh!”

He left with a new approach to meditation.

© Mary Ann Petersen. Albany, Oregon

What is good mental health?

Here is a list of eight things I was told in school (Oregon college of Oriental Medicine, Portland, Oregon).

Signs of good mental health could be the ability to:

  1. Develop emotionally, creatively, and spiritually.
  2. Initiate, develop, and sustain healthy relationships.
  3. Face problems, resolve them, learn from them.
  4. Be confident and assertive.
  5. Have awareness of others, ability to empathize with them.
  6. Use and enjoy solitude.
  7. Play and have fun.
  8. Laugh at yourself and at the world (takes tremendous amount of self esteem and inner strength to laugh at oneself).

*We need enough life force to initiate and develop ourselves. Always look for and find ways to cultivate your life force.

The above list came from an academic course, which was directed toward working with addiction and mental health.

© Mary Ann Petersen

These are guidelines, points of reference. I think we need to identify in writing some concepts of good mental health. It’s time to be concrete rather than vague.

Why don’t more people have answers for good mental health? Why does it seem slippery? Lately, I see a need for solid footing in this subject. Let’s start somewhere. And go beyond, “see a counselor.” Some won’t get there, so what are common sense concepts in the meantime? As in, let’s get some movement on the ground floor, within our reach and not make supporting general mental health too confusing.

© Mary Ann Petersen. Dublin, Ireland.

My point is, we all need to bring this care into our own lives, even if we are not in the middle of a mental health crisis. If we wait for that, it’s a harder place to set up aid and self care.

© Mary Ann Petersen. The temple.

The next list is from a Quaker group I attended, so it has a spiritual leaning. The topic was Universal Spiritual Elements.

Universal Spiritual Elements

  1. Awareness of the “other.” What is valued or sacred? What do you value over yourself?

2. Sense of responsibility. How am I responsible for the world around me? How do treat my space, surroundings, people, pets?

3. Sense of vocation. What is my reason for being? What gives meaning or purpose?

4. Sense of community. Is there a sense of caring and being cared for? Who are my people? Who do I trust?

5. Sense of repentance. What is my capacity for reconciliation with self and others. Mistakes are entry points for healing forgiveness.

6. Ability to be present. Is my focus past, present, or future oriented. Soul lives in present. Past: ego. Future: ego.

7. Faith. What is the relationship between my small story fitting into the bigger story. To connect to a sense of the transcendent, what do you relate to?

Having trouble figuring out how to integrate all this into your life? That’s o.k., pick one thing and start there. Remember to have fun. Practice, practice, practice.

In my view, we should be having conversations and taking action everyday toward cultivating good head and heart space.

Leave a comment to say which or what called to you.

Back to meditation, if you want a great kickstart, go to https://chopracentermeditation.com/experience.
It’s a great 21-day simple guided meditation. It fits into any schedule! It starts Monday the 30th. The theme is Making Every Moment Matter.

Orcas Island

 

I felt on the brink of magic. I was, Orcas island was next. Still, Anacortes is beautiful; you can walk on the beach or a boardwalk path if you have time before your ferry pulls in.

 

Anacortes is the place to drive onto ferries that go to Canada and the San Juan islands.

 

The original people of the San Juan islands were Samish. For more about them, go here:

https://www.samishtribe.nsn.us/

If you had been among these tribes, you might have spoken Samish, Semiahmoo, Lummi, Sannich, Songish, or Sooke. They had a good life. Then non-natives showed up and wiped them out with diseases.

A huge cannery was built in the late 1800s, where the ferry station is now.

Canneries were a big deal at the turn of the century to preserve meat. By the 1930s, refrigeration put many canneries out of business.

This is a little beach off Eastsound, in Orcas.

I got sick in Orcas, so spent 36 hours in bed. It kind of killed the adventures and stories. I listened to sounds from the room.

1. Men doing business calls from the balcony.

2. Kids screaming or laughing.

3. Housekeepers chattering and vacumming.

4. One Kingfisher shouting.

5. Dogs barking.

6. Unknown noise. I finally settled on 2 monsters gargling.

I stayed at Rosario resort. This is a short drive from Eastsound, a good spot for food and shopping. Robert Moran built his dream home on this land, and named it Rosario. Moran, based in Seattle, made a fortune building battleships. His mansion is the most elegant and strongest residence I’ve ever seen. Moran had humble beginnings, and as a young man was influenced by John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt. Though highly driven, he had a soft spot for nature, not just for the wealthy, but for everyone.

For more history go here:

http://rosarioresort.com/museum/

I highly recommend the show by Christopher Peacock, which is free. He plays the original huge pipe organ and tells juicy* historical stories, in between showing gorgeous vintage slides of the island and Seattle. It’s a one-of-a-kind show.

* {the wife of the second owner of Rosario would drive into town on a motorcycle to play poker. She often didn’t bother to get dressed, just went in her red nightgown}.

The reason we can all trot around so much of Orcas is because Moran donated thousands of acres. This was so unusual at the time that the state didn’t know how to accept the donation, so he went to work with the paperwork and procedural process to make it happen.

Cascade lake

Right above Rosario is Moran state park. Two lakes are within it: Cascade lake and mountain lake. Both are great for swimming or paddling or walking around. Don’t miss Mt. Constitution. Incredible views of all the islands below.

From a distance, it looks like the ferries eat cars then spit them out. Too soon it was time to take the ferry home.

The view from the front.

The tide was out when I got up early to paddleboard Eastsound before leaving. I didn’t feel like mucking thru 70 yards of thick gooey sand.

That means I have to go back, which I look forward to!

 

 

Random note- this was my theme song- just stuck in my head during the trip!

 

Time-traveling tortoise

 

We can time travel, but nobody writes about it.
It’s not what you think.
When you put me down on the floor back in the winter, you said I didn’t move for days.

It seemed like 5 minutes to me.

Summer is my favorite time of year.

I like to eat the Grandpa Ott morning glories. The bright purple flowers produce hallucinations, though the effect wore off after they became a regular meal. They told me their name, the first plant name I learned. Now I eat almost everything and I wait for it to tell me stories.

I don’t like cilantro.

Some plants tell folk stories using a specific dialect of their native language. Others connect to satellites and at certain times, play international news shows. This is sometimes what I am doing when resting under the blueberries.

Other times, I am meditating. By meditating, I mean I am exchanging qi with the universe, which is currently called qi gong. T animals, the tortoise and turtle are masters. We process the scattered qi that people are constantly flicking around. It’s a little bit like recycling.

Back to time travel. I don’t know how to explain it to you.

I come and go. It mostly happens when I relax. I sink down, drop out of my shell and wiggle down through soft slippery fibers. When I get to the bottom, it becomes the top.

I pop up out of water. I am washed onto a rocky beach where I hear birds singing and humans have not yet arrived.

This is one place I go when I’m not here.

 

Stand-up paddle the urban Willamette

Sellwood bridge, just south of the launch site

I pushed off at Sellwood Riverfront park. The plan? Paddle the board toward the city. I wouldn’t make it all the way, but the journey looked good. I parked on a street nearly under Sellwood bridge and headed toward what I thought was a boat launch. It seemed that it had been one a long time ago. As I approached, I saw a vague hazard sign. It didn’t explain much and there was no fence. I couldn’t see anything scary, so I went in. After launching, I looked back over my shoulder to see a warning sign about a cable and 11,000 voltage! I paddled much faster. Note to self: don’t exit this way.

Between Sellwood and downtown Portland

Going north toward town was a push against current and wind. The water was a little choppy, not too bad, no white caps. I dropped to my knees a few times when I came upon cross currents, water stitches, surges, and bucks. I absolutely did not want to fall in. Too cold. This was more of a workout paddle, not a cruise. I really wanted to get a good view of the city and the first bridge, so I didn’t take the side route through calmer water that diverts east, just off the yacht club.

Also on the east side, just before the yacht club, is Oaks Park. Sounds of people screaming on the roller coaster bounce out and off the water.

I was glad to not have my chihuahua mix hood ornament dog with me. She would have hated the water splashing across the front of the board.

After close to an hour of paddling, I pulled into a small gathering of snags in the middle of the river. A perfect rest area and a place to sit down and take a few pictures of the still far away city. I noticed a small board held between roots and branches. I plucked it out- my next sign! It was imperfect in perfect ways- part lumber, part river wood. It had aged and ripened in the river.

From the river: Holy. Sacred, divine, blessed, nature.

The only other boaters out were people fishing and kayaks. I like to throw a friendly wave and hope that doesn’t cause me to pitch off my board.

Evening on the water- almost out

It was getting late or I might have pushed it farther. I needed to get off the water before dark, and that meant I needed to turn around. Two hours of solid paddling is enough anyway. Coming back was faster with the wind and current; however, the river still had surprises in movement. For example at random times, there would be drops and surges, or it felt like the board was goosed and pushed me forward toward the nose. No idea what that was but it made me laugh.

The way out? Just take the stairs. Right before the last dock prior to Sellwood bridge, dart left, and there are two different sets of steps leading out of the water. Incredibly civilized. Sort of like Venice, only concrete rather than marble. Close enough to make for a magical water outing.

Easy access to Riverfront park

 

Be the tree, strong and flexible: spring is in the air.

Wood is the element of spring. What are the conditions of spring and how do we notice, align, and incorporate with this season? This blog churns up a few notions about Chinese medicine from an elemental/seasonal perspective.

This is the time!

We are all of this earth, so we have earthy elements. Studying the elements is a way to integrate with nature. It’s a way to channel the current element, thus align and sync with the season.

Spring sun warms the shell to bring forth movement

Each season gives us a chance to notice where we are, how we are moving, where we are going, and generally what is going on. What is our place?

A long time ago, in China, they talked of wood and fierce growth. It quickly got a little more detailed.
To see the elements of spring through the lens of this theory, look at the list below.

The featured organ of spring is the liver.
season: spring
direction: up
planet: jupiter
weather: windy
direction: east
sense: vision
flavor: sour
secretion: tears
orifice: eyes
tissues: ligaments and tissues
color: green
wild animal: tiger
instrument: compass (direction)

Buttercups! A free spring flower!

pathology of this time of year:
pain in chest or sides of chest
redness, swelling of eyes
depression, anger
muscle/tendon inflexibility
irregular menses
vertigo

Personality of wood:
We have the wood element in us all year long, some more than others. Strong wood personalities are often leaders, people who get things done.

Fallen limbs from winter ice storm transform into feeding structure for hungry spring birds

Like all the elements, it helps when wood is in balance. If out of balance, it can lead to extremes on either end. Too much wood: argumentative, short tempered, overbearing, inflexible. Too little wood: lack of drive, direction, vision, and hope.

Time to look at new flight patterns

People who lack woodiness are looking for a plan, structure and vision for them to feel the strength and flexibility inwardly, to then manifest outwardly. They need to harness direction and movement forward.

Those with too much woodiness, can be overly controlling and pushy; therefore, could use softening, flexibility, and a willingness to not demand so much control.

Imagine we are all trees. Different trees, tall, short, bushy, bare, smooth, rough. Our human bodies and tree bodies are blended in this season, and one message is: be strong, yet flexible. Allow your branches to bend. Bending is favored over breaking. Try not to snap.

Trees and humans are both seen as connecting heaven and earth, dirt to sky. Branches and limbs are like tendons and sinews. We want to have a good supply and flow of sap, like healthy trees. This goes for emotions too. We can see and touch rigid sore muscles, but what about rigid attitudes? Short tempers? This makes for a dry and brittle personality that turns to fiery anger quickly (extreme anger is called “liver fire”).

In school, we were taught that it is best to be moveable, changeable, bendable. How do you balance growth, or try new things, while also maintaining a way of creative adaptability- to thrive more readily with what is. For us trees and people, we need unobstructed fluid/sap circulation, bendy limbs, flexible attitudes, and branches that let the air and light flow through.

Try to encourage supple muscles/ supple mind.

This is an active season. Growth! It is not a passive or reflective time of year.

Questions and tips of this season

  1. what makes me feel alive?
  2. what can I do to be a more fully alive person?
  3. Am I moving my body enough? It’s time to move and disperse stagnation.
  4. If you feel you are off-track somehow, it’s time to get back on. Don’t worry too much about mistakes, just try things and move on.
  5. Stretch your tendons and sinews. Move stagnation, yet remain stable.
  6. Organize and restructure routes or habits that are inefficient, or no longer effective.
  7. Grow toward the light. Follow light like plants do. Be aware of your direction.
    * List from Thea Elijah, LAc., from her wood integration series.

Spring is the season of birth and growth…. it also has its share of death and decay. Yet, in spring, grief and fear are overtaken by the sheer force of optimism and vitality.

It’s a great time to make massage oil with spring elements to soothe tendons and sinews. Soften the limbs, relax the attitude.

Mood boost massage oil:
Base: sunflower oil
Add: bergamot, lemon, and orange essential oils. Amount added depends on amount of oil. If it’s 8 0z., I’d recommend 10-20 drops of each. Experiment. Start small if you don’t like a strong smell.

Balance massage oil
Base: sunflower oil
Add: orange, patchouli, and ginger essential oils.

I chose sunflower oil as the base, but you can choose something else. I love sunflowers, their booming vitality, color, and sunniness. They provide beauty, pollination for bees, and fuel for birds. Sunflower oil is also rich in vitamins A, D, and E.

In conclusion, I’m told that horses do these three things the most in the spring: buck, fart, and roll, sometimes as a sequence. Go for it!

References:
J.R. Worsley, Classical Five-Element Acupuncture
Thea Elijah, LAc.

Tend your life

The fuzzy gray blooms are called catkins.

It’s pussy willow season, did you know that? I’ve been out the last two evenings collecting gorgeous bundles along a nearby creek. I like harvesting them because you have to notice them, time it, pay attention. It feels old and sweet and real. While slogging around in my rubber boots tonight, I noticed two hawks, several ducks, very crisp air, and two guys smoking pot, also next to the creek.

I’ve been thinking about the importance of tending one’s life. The last post was about living with inspiration, living with passion.
Where does it come from?

I think it comes from tending. Tending what? What you love or like; what calls to you.

Fermentation brings forth the goods

I tend a garden. I didn’t start out a gardener. The head gardener was my mom. It took years before I actually felt compelled to create my own garden. Now it is my grounding, my tether to the earth and seasons. It is my balm when pleased or not pleased with events around me. It is not necessarily a passion, but more of an inspiration, a reason to be present. For me, gardening helps me simplify my intent, and clear the path for other thoughts or feelings to come up.

Poet Mary Oliver says: attention is the beginning of devotion.

I once dug in the dirt every day for weeks and it was neither passionate or inspiring, but it settled me down, put me in a more pliable mood. It caused me to be more open to input, and more willing to dispose of unnecessary burden.

Tending just takes interest, focus, and care. You have to notice what you are tending. Does it need water? Food? Protection? Care? Love?  This is beyond plants, now we are talking mammals. I think we learn to care, and even to love by tending.

Tending flat-out leads to more tenderness.

To get to passion and inspiration you have to start somewhere, with something or someone. Maybe it’s a lover or a loved one. Or it could be painting, singing, swimming, cooking, animals, hiking, reading, writing, paddling ….. O.k., those are my things. Find your own things. And then, here’s the big thing: MAKE TIME FOR IT. Whether a hobby or a person, make the time. Ultimately you’re investing in yourself, your own heart.

Tending to what calls to you makes you more alive and more aware. Rumi put it best, “Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.”

Tend, as a verb, means to stretch, extend. It became a word around 1300-50. It means to attend by action and care. Another example used it in a different way, as in, “the particles tend to unite.” I’ve got it: I wish to unite my particles to attend to my life and those in it with action and care. It is one way to find purpose and direction to recognize and awaken the passion within.

Recently, at a Quaker garden work party, we shape shifted dirt into new raised beds. We wanted them to be level and true. Have you stood in wood chips and mud and known for a fact if your surroundings were plumb and level? What is true? Brian brought out two glasses of water, which were set on opposite sides of the frames. This was illuminating! We were all wrong as to what actually lined up with the laws of nature.

The water levels in the glasses led us to what was true. I think tending helps us to find our own truth, our own nature. Finding threads to personal truth is exciting. It makes a heart beat with more aliveness.

 

 

Field trip for the soul

A place with room to wake up.

I was feeling a little bummed out. I needed some different scenery. I had some things on my mind and they weren’t all happy things. What to do with a melancholic half day off? Leave town. First stop, the bird refuge. My spirit needed a rinse of water, sky, birds, rain.

This is a story with pictures about moods, inspiration, letting things be, and beer. There might be some Buddhist stuff squeezed in here and there.

This represents an empty mood.

This is how it feels to me when things don’t work out. I saw it from the highway and knew it was the perfect shot to illustrate melancholia. Here is a structure that was a home, a base, but now it’s abandoned and not functional. When I am dealing with my own perceived tragedies, I am forced to go through loss and pain. Oddly enough this is a good exercise.

Through reading The Way of the Bodhisattva, I kept hearing the same message: self-absorption is the main source of suffering. How to get out of self absorption? Expand expand expand. I was constricted in my thinking. I was thinking small. The ancient book recommends that we connect with our expansiveness in order to gain access to tenderness and compassion. This can move us beyond a self-centered point of view.

I pull from all directions for guidance. Yesterday I listened to a vlog about lots of cosmic things, but the best part of it, for me, was: Live with passion! Live inspired! I immediately felt my recently repressed passion awaken. I can do this. How could I forget this?

He also emphasized letting go of the superficial. We are bombarded with the superficial ALL THE TIME. Chuck it.

How to expand? Go outside. I laced up my kick-ass boots and hit the road.

You need the right footwear to balance the mood, sturdy the spirit.

In a short time, I was at the bird refuge. Grass, mud, and water was in every direction. Clouds and sky and the sound of singing frogs and red-wing blackbirds filled the moist air. That was more than enough, but then I got to see a bald eagle, a kestrel, and a swarm of killdeer. I know they’re not technically called a swarm, but I like it.

Next stop, a small town. It is small but there is room for poetry. If at all sorrowful, one must hit up poetry. It just works!

Soul waves must be a good thing

Love the imagery of the erosion of rigidity. I can see the salt and water softening the rock and soil, from millions of waves.

You must be prepared. Sometimes it’s really o.k. to stop.

I’ve heard recently of a concept that we have to empty ourselves. This could mean many things, but I think the idea is that we clear out internal space. It’s a little like spring cleaning or Feng Shui for the head and heart spaces.

I’m reading Ilene Cumming’s book, The Truth is at My Front Door. She talks about her experience as a hospice volunteer. Among the tools needed–compassion, presence, emotional stamina–what stands out to me is “the courage to simply enter the room empty.”

I was a hospice volunteer. I was on the roster to supply acupressure touch and acupuncture. I remember arriving at the door, just before knocking, and having a holy shit moment. What can I possibly do to help this person? Oh no oh no oh no oh no oh–what have I done?! Too late, I have to go in.

I think I’m going to practice being empty more in regular life. Just show up. And that takes expansion. It takes remembering the sky is really large. I don’t need to contract because of my own, or others’ expectations.

I wrapped up the field trip with beer. There are no pictures of the beer. I was at Sky High brew pub in Corvallis with a window seat looking at clouds and light.

I’m just passing through
Should I expand or contract
I choose my next breath

Spring is coming. Be inspiring. Be passionate.

 

The finish of the PCT, back from the wilderness

Remember when I interviewed Chance Fitzpatrick about halfway through his walk from Mexico to Canada? Here is that:  http://www.maryannpetersen.com/?p=120

Chance kept going as a thru hiker and made it to Canada in good time.

The end of the trail
The end of the trail

We decided to chat again at the end of his journey. I wanted to ask a few more questions.

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1. Why would you recommend thru hiking?

For me it was an opportunity to prove to myself that fears can’t stand in the way of achieving your dreams. Thru hiking is not for everyone. But I do believe that anybody can successfully complete a journey like the PCT if it’s in their soul. I love hiking and being out in nature without any distractions. Lots of people fall victim of the “Too’s”: I’m too young, old, fat, busy, afraid, etc. This list could go on and on. But I met countless hikers from all walks of life that really inspired me on the trail. We’re all equals out there.

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2. Did you feel lonely?

One of my greatest joys was discovering that walking alone does not mean that you have to feel lonely. At first, being gone for about five months seemed like a long time. But in reality, it’s like a blink of an eye or a drop in the ocean in the bigger scheme of things. Sure, you’re going to be missing out on lots of “things” happening. But honestly stepping out into the void of constant daily change and being way outside of my comfort zone was awesome. I felt more alive, and in times of difficulty would chat with my trail companions or call close friends.

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Some wild flowers live out there

3. Barfing and diarrhea in the woods? Seriously. How to deal with that?

Haha, this isn’t quite as bad as it sounds. My first bout with the “runs” was the evening before reaching the Paradise Valley Cafe. I poured a very generous serving of coconut oil into my dinner thinking nothing of it. Only to awake several times at night to face the wrath of my midnight cleanse. While talking with several hikers further up the trail they revealed similar stories after digesting too much coconut. My next round  was due to eating bad salami because the vacuum sealed package was  compromised. My only time vomiting was heading out of Stehekin (WA) as a result of eating way too much rich food. All of the examples above could have been avoided and easily prevented.

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4. Nature is often advised for mental health. Yet difficult emotions must still come up. According to your blog, there were ups and downs. Talk about some of those and how it landed out in nature.

Each day had its ups and downs that ebbed and flowed like the changing landscape. There were many times when my emotions and experiences were far too personal to share. It’s a long time to be with your thoughts. I would allow myself to feel a full range of emotions, yet move through them and not have any attachment. Also, I’d usually focus on deep and slow breathing to bring myself back into the present moment and be centered. Maintaining a daily blog requires a lot of commitment and dedication. It really only provides a snapshot of the entire hiking experience. This worked wonders as you can’t really grind out mile after mile if your emotions are dragging you down.

You have to start somewhere
You have to start somewhere

5. What lessons learned there apply here?

It’s made me more aware of opportunities when I can help others and pay it forward. Being able to step away from my mind and thoughts controlling me was one of my biggest lessons on trail. You can have any thought or emotion pop up in an instant but it doesn’t have to define who you are or how you’d like to feel for the rest of the day. Hiking day after day for 12-13 hours puts you in a very real space. It also helps you to view the world with a different set of eyes. It’s made me appreciate many things on a whole new level. Plus gratitude comes into play at every turn and twist in the road. You also get to experience the generosity of many strangers that help you along the way.

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6. People might expect an epiphany from such a journey. Is it something big? Or a series of small things?

I didn’t find a holy grail or discover the meaning of life. It’s a series of many small events and daily miracles coming together to form the entire experience. It brings clearness to questions like: What’s important to me? What makes me happy? What am I afraid of?
You start to see and experience a level of honesty and transparency within yourself.

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7. Trail angels. What are they? How can we be trail angels to each other, while at home, not on the trail?

A trail angel is usually defined as someone who will help you with a ride, food, water, shelter etc., and always seem to show up randomly at just the perfect time. One of the most common things done to reach resupply points is to hitch-hike. Most people can’t imagine stopping to give a stranger a ride. It’s too dangerous, there’s a lot of weirdos, etc. The feeling of someone pulling over and giving a ride when you’re out of food, tired, and looking forward to enjoying your next town stop is magical. People helping people is what trail life is all about. Often times we can become so enveloped in our own little worlds. Completely oblivious to the joys that come from helping others in simple and subtle ways.

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8. There is a spiritual thought that we need to step out of our thinking, and step into the wilderness. Often this refers to internal work, but you literally did go into the wilderness. Were you trying to step out of overthinking things, to move out into a more organic space?

Yes, one of the most satisfying parts of my journey was being fully present. Turning walking all day into an active meditation. Letting emotions and feelings rise and fall while being centered and taking in all of my surroundings. Many of us, myself included are at our best when we stop thinking so much about everything. All of the analysis, processing, and figuring just gets in the way of being mindful. I enjoy walking in nature to achieve a feeling of overwhelming stillness and joy. But this can be done in any activity that someone is passionate about. Thru hiking provides the opportunity to walk in nature for months on end without the stress of daily life interfering.

Enjoy the whole journey by going to Chance’s blog: chancingit.com

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