It's just what happens
Since I finished my (almost) thru-hike in 2017, I've been pondering the transformational power of thru-hiking.
Long distance hiking changes people.
Whether we're seeking change or not.
It's just what happens.
I'm a life-long personal growth junkie and a recently "out" spiritual junkie.
Hiking helped me acknowledge my spiritual leanings and, more importantly, gave me the courage to start speaking out loud about God, the Divine, deep soul work, prayer--all that spiritual stuff--without feeling like a fraud or worrying about what my godless heathen friends would think.
I love the godless heathens!
I resembled that description.
Except I didn't. Because I was in the proverbial closet about my spiritual seeking.
I needed to find my voice and speak what's true for me...that I am Spirit incarnate (we all are), and that there's no more important task for me (or you) as a human than to do the work to remember what my soul came here to be and to do and to experience through me.
Hiking helps me be who I came here to be...Gatorade-swilling, Little Debbie-snarfing, unkempt, stinky dirtbag.
My soul leans toward walking in the woods. Hiking helps me be who my soul wants me to be.
But even if you don't immediately identify with the unkempt, stinky, Gatorade-swilling, Little Debbie-snarfing dirtbags in the thru-hiking community, walking in the woods still offers hope for those who like daily showers and regular consumption of fresh veggies.
Here's how hiking helps us remember who we came here to be...
1. Walking in the woods helps us identify and call forth our leanings and longings, the inclinations unique to our journey that pluck at our heart strings and, when honored, deepen our soul life.
Long (unplugged) walks in the woods turn off the chatter and allow the still, small voice of the soul to be heard. What it whispers will thrill you and, if you're really hearing it, scare you in a good way. Like bungee jumping.
2. Hiking, especially long distance hiking, fills us with the courage to rebel against the well-worn and acceptable paths that deaden our souls...the job that doesn't fit; the expectations to go from point a to point z as mapped out by society and family; the mania for "getting and spending" that ultimately proves to be a burden and a cage.
Spend a self-sufficient month on the trail, enduring tribulations, solving predicaments, facing wild animals, and that newly minted courage becomes part of who you are, a resource to draw upon when it's time to make hard decisions "in real life."
Hiking give us the strength and the fearlessness to break out of our boxes, boxes we build ourselves.
This year, I'm exploring ways to be more intentional about that growth. I mean, if thru-hiking changes you without you even trying very hard, imagine how a slow journey on foot might fast track our deep soul work if we actually work at it!
Very exciting. Stay tuned...tomorrow I'll share five exercises to make our journeys by foot even more intentional. And effective.
Until then, here's a poem about the boxes we build around ourselves, courtesy of William Wordsworth.
THE WORLD IS TOO MUCH WITH US; LATE AND SOON
THE world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: Little we see in Nature that is ours; We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon; The winds that will be howling at all hours, And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers; For this, for everything, we are out of tune; It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea; Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
William Wordsworth, 1806