Tag Archives: personal growth

Adopt. Cats. Meditate.

Taken moments after the Oprah and Deepak 21-day meditation series, day 15. The theme: Being in the flow is effortless. Sanskrit: Sat Chit Ananda-Life is absolute bliss consciousness

I went out and got two cats the other day. I looked online at the local shelter and though the goal was one, I chose two. They did not know each other.

One radiated sweet, the other appeared cute and playful. After we got home, one was naughty, one was nice. The cute and playful one became moody and distant.

I saw her walking away a lot. At home, she was an emotional mystery prone to getting upset quickly. As in, don’t touch me, don’t pick me up. DON’T!

Neither cat actually behaved badly. I just had to get to know them.

She was a mystery, her personality and story taking form each day

I AM cute, yes, and thank you for noticing!

The sweet cat is the orange boy cat.

Lord Byron

After a couple days of being scared of a new place, he set his loving gaze upon me.

He approves of me. It’s a done deal.

How do you suddenly have two grown cats? Who don’t know each other? You follow the directions. The shelter offers tips and instructions on how to gradually introduce. The cats did great and I was committed. It took my attention. It’s not a “let ’em work it out” thing I remember hearing people say years ago. As the tribe leader, the human in the house needs to keep things respectfully organized and safe so the kitties can feel cared for in their new surroundings.

I learned to meet the cats where they were. I’m still doing that, about a month later. All this is a lot like getting to know anyone, even people. Time, space, place, boundaries, bonding, habits, preferences- these have meaning for all creatures.

Meditation turned out to be the best bonding activity, even equal to play. Spice Girl, named for personality and her hues of cumin, coriander, turmeric, chili, and ginger, likes meditation. She isn’t moody, she just needs stillness. She would rather sit in peace with you than bite and scratch, given the option. Really.

She wanted to connect but didn’t know how.

So, we learned.

The other arrived with peace and love, this was his truest nature.

Lordy

If their nature is not peace and love, that is o.k. This invites close attention! Observation.

Lesson #1, don’t do what they don’t like. When cat says no; not that; not here; not there; not this; oh hell no!….. listen. Because next they will tell you what they do like.

Yes, I like that toy! Yes! Yes! I like that touch! There, under my chin! By my ears! Yes! I like sweet talk directed at ME! Yes, I love the food you offer! Yes, I love the meditation when I sit with you and you don’t pet me but we are touching! Yes! Thank you! Yes, that purr is for YOU! O.k., I have to go now!

Cats have a great ability to relax if they think everything is basically o.k. It’s a good enough reason to keep a habit of creating a basically o.k. environment.

Big thanks to my loyal dog, Lily. She is an unlikely zen master with cats. Seriously, she diffused all feelings of worry and angst when introduced. It’s not that she particularly likes cats. It’s just a non-issue for her. She adapts to adoption. She was once adopted herself.

Lily likes leaves.

We are at one month now, and everyone is getting along well. There is still an occasional hiss, but it’s more of a warning than an aggressive act. More often I hear chripy recognition hello meows with a purr follow-up. Our daily meditation brings a contented silence, which naturally spills into regular non-meditation time. It’s great to share peace with all creatures!

 

The editorial board

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.

From email to poem

This is what happened when I wrote an email to a friend. He turned my words into this poem:
body aches and spirit moaning,
in the name not of love, but of dodge and shame,
held back, or only allowed to burn in the same fields
how can we nurture and flow
transform resentment into liberation?
hungering for intimacy
for those here and those not here
it’s a bit of a sparse playground
what an eye-opening situation!
leave the boat at the bank, after crossing the river
Thanks for the creative collaboration, Corbin Sweeny. I love the poem!

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.

 

Meditation provokes potato calm

Today’s group meditation was like a smooth slalom through warm, mashed potatoes. Visualize effortlessly carving left and right down a gentle tater slope. An occasional splatter sprays your cheek. You lick at this flavor of experience.

There is only a slight drag on the bottom of your skis, not in an obstructive way, but in a comfort food kind of way. Speed is relatively slow over mashed potatoes. This plant-based base has a subtle granular quality. Butter slows you down more than you would think. It adds a certain weight and fluidity to the glide through starchy spud drifts.

This meditative space is welcoming and open. It allows vulnerability. It offers a new phrase I just learned: emotional exposure. In a totally safe way. The air and the people sharing it do not put out a vibe of defense. Collectively, there is no bristling in response to another. No guts are tightening in preparation to fire off a counterpoint.

I enjoy this rhythm of being. There is no top or bottom, only moving through.

Emotional fitness

The other function of organs
The other function of organs

I work out for emotional fitness. I work out for heart health. No, not just the cardio blood-pumping heart health. Sure, that’s good common sense, which we all know. I like to work out to make my heart feel stronger on an emotional and spiritual level. Yep, that’s right. I think emotional fitness is where it’s at.

Exercise has been a lifelong habit. I work out when I am sad, happy, bored, lonely, anxious, depressed, excited, joyful, or worried. It fits all my moods.

image

Fitness is encouraged to support physical health, fight off disease, and for sex appeal. It is also encouraged for stress relief. What does it mean to reduce stress exactly? I think it means that we take care of our emotional fitness.

Walked by this once and have been inspired since.
Walked by this once and have been inspired ever since.

I have a list of reasons to exercise to support what is referred to as mental health. I would rather call it living.

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My list includes familiar methods, but instead of listing the obvious physical benefits, I share how I am effected on a mental, emotional, or spiritual level. I am sure everyone experiences these differently. I’d love to know how others feel their emotions are enhanced with workouts.

Running:
I do intervals of jogging, sprinting, and walking. Intervals, the mixture, is ideal for me. I find jogging boring and slightly miserable after a while. Walking makes me slow down and see things around me more closely. I learn to appreciate my surroundings. Running fast makes me feel like a stone skipping across water. I like the short maximum demand, like a speeding bullet train (at least in my head).

For me, running burns off anxiety. It reduces fear.

Swimming:
It’s quiet under the water. I come up with new ideas because I am less distracted by reasons why I can’t do things. It’s just me and the water. The water’s fluidity encourages a more flexible way of thinking.

Perspective shift in progress
Perspective shift in progress

I have to take deep breaths and hold it and release it, and that creates a lot of bubbles that I can float through. I move through space differently and that brings forth creativity in problem solving.

Laps to freedom
Laps to freedom

For me, swimming is forgiveness. Swimming makes me feel the most loving. I love everyone after a good swim.

Lifting weights:
I feel strong, and therefore confident when I lift weights. This makes me less paranoid, less concerned about perceived threats. I like to hold weight, to lift it with control. When confident in this arena, I am more likely to bring myself stronger to whatever I am doing. This includes things that don’t require obvious physical strength. Another bonus: I don’t feel as vulnerable to negativity.

Lifting weights can offer stability and build confidence.

Yoga:
It is good for me because it makes me go slow. My favorite instructors offer a bit of history about the poses rather than powering through it on a purely physical level.  Yoga can be a great blend. It offers a good dish of humility. My best life teachers have been humble. Knowing these teachers taught me to be vulnerable, to ask for help. I like yoga for making friends with myself, for practicing flexibility.

Yoga encourages me toward a more humble and yielding position in the scheme of things.

Burpees: Falling to the ground and getting back up again, over and over when it seems impossible, is pushing it. This is about perseverance through discomfort and even fear. After I do burpees I feel like my cells have been washed, purged, and rinsed repeatedly. By the time I am done, I feel more clear. I feel my body, mind, spirit have been flushed and hung out to dry. I’m ready for anything.

When you're all in on all levels
When you’re all in on all levels

Burpees reduce negativity. You’re simply happy you lived through it. They also reduce stagnation. I am cleansed. I feel nearly euphoric.

A little shout out to the heart and lungs on a emotional level: Older health paradigms assigned emotions or feelings to organs. For example, in Chinese medicine the heart can house anxiety, but also joy and enlightenment. The lungs can store grief, but also can produce generosity and integrity. In my thinking, the more we are stagnant, the more negativity builds.

This does not mean we cannot be still. Stillness or meditation is absolutely essential in good mental health. Being still for wellness is a completely different blog, so I’ll save that for later.

Paddling relaxed
Paddling slow and relaxed

In summary, the above listed methods of exercise offer me:

less fear
less anxiety
forgiveness
more love
stability
humility
less negativity
less stagnation
a sprinkle of euphoria

These are health goals that I can get behind!

What about you, what works in your world?

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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