6 hours, 11 miles, 1000 feet up and down shushing through ankle deep snow, what do you think about? I think about everything. And nothing.
Everything includes family, friends, work opportunities and challenges, the perfect place to take each of my 2 planned food and water breaks, every place I remember along segment 3 of the Colorado Trail and how I remember them from a campsite I shared with my wife Kim and son George in 2016 to a rock I sat on wearing a poncho tarp in a driving rain 15 years ago, and whether we live in a universe or a multiverse.
Nothing isn’t really what it sounds like. A completely empty mind has eluded me the few times I’ve made the attempt. But a clear mind, a calm mind, a peaceful mind, that I achieve every time I hike for several hours or more.
Feet fall rhythmically upon the snow – slower going uphill, faster going down, the pace changes but the underlying rhythm remains. Trekking poles planting in sync. One plant per step on the way up and across, more often one plant for every 3 steps on the way down. Evolving but ever perfect harmony between upper body and lower body. This is not plowing up hill and bolting back down – it’s flowing over hilly terrain smoothly with moderate effort remaining a near constant while speed varies with the topography and footing.
There is more quality time in this flow state later in each outing. Some of that due to the transition time required to move from civilization into a wilder state. But some is due to the lightening load as the outing enters its later phases. The less I’m carrying the easier it is to connect with all around me. Every 2 hours or so I stop for food and water. When I put my pack back on, it’s almost 2 pounds lighter. Every 2 pounds matters and is massively noticeable on a day like yesterday when my bacpack weight went from about 9, to 7, to 5 pounds. As the load carried approaches zero, I become far more aware of the infinite.
The flow state of moving meditation gets interrupted by conscious thought often. That’s not a problem – the conscious thoughts are usually high-quality insights that spring from the work the subconscious mind has been doing. They aren’t to be ignored; they are to be captured so that I have access to them tomorrow. I generally capture them by sending myself a text or an email that I voice dictate. My phone may be in airplane mode but the messages show up the next day when I’m back at my desk. And then what a treat to see which ideas seem even better than I thought, and which turn out to be junk.
Meditation is good for you but not everyone is adept at achieving it by sitting still. Some only achieve it at far higher speeds than I do choosing to trail run or mountain bike to center themselves. But I find a moderate intensity, extended duration hike to be the best way for me. How do you meditate?