One of the wonderful ironies of being a spiritual seeker is how spiritual experiences can find you precisely when you aren’t seeking them. When the weather thawed enough to be outside without a parka, I began to hit the hiking trails that crisscross the mountains where I live. What began with leisurely rambling hikes has now evolved into Sunday morning trail runs. With the nearly daily rain showers, I find myself often coming home mud splattered from splashing through puddle. Not to mention drenched in sweat and bleeding from mosquito bites and the occasional lost battle with gravity.
When I took up this particular hobby, I expected to see some benefits – better coordination and balance, improved endurance and strength, etc. I’m not sure that any of these things have actually happened, but an unexpected benefit has cropped up. The focus required for safely navigating the uneven terrain puts an delightfully abrupt halt to the stream of mental chatter that usually occupies my head. For at least a half hour of my week, my only focus is my connection to the natural world around me. My thoughts focus on where my feet are falling, the visible obstacles in my path, and the movements within the woods surrounding me. There are no questions, no self doubt, no internal arguments. There I find a sense of zen that no amount of mediation has ever helped me to achieve. What started as exercise has become a spiritual experience, a deepening of the connections to this universe.
Now, could someone kindly explain to the mosquitoes that it’s very hard to achieve any sense of internal stillness when one finds herself on the Sunday brunch menu?