A few weeks back, I mentioned that I’d been hitting the trails on Sunday mornings, affectionately known as the Temple of Mud, Sweat, and Blood. Thanks to the vacation and subsequent illness mentioned in my last post, I’ve missed two weeks of Sunday services. Today, I finally laced on my running shoes again and set out with a feet-dragging reluctance that I’m almost ashamed to admit. I could think of some really good reasons not to go- being ill, feeling physically drained, horrific seasonal allergies, lethargy such that I can barely pick my feet up off the ground. I could also think of some rather dumb excuses not to go – cool weather, looking silly in running clothes, not wanting to be seen in ‘public’ with a nose leaking like a faucet. Of course, others have been so kind to give me reasons why I should absolutely never go trail running on my own – poison ivy/oak/sumac, encounters with dangerous creatures like poisonous snakes, bears, and serial killers, horrific accidents like falling down an embankment, breaking both legs, and having to live off leaves and dew drops until finally succumbing to death by exposure.
In spite of the internal whining, I set out on the trail this morning with the intent to walk most of it, resting frequently, and being cautious as I went. After about twenty minutes, I felt stronger than I had in weeks and picked up the pace to a slow jog. As I began to run, all the voices of doubt started shouting in my head – what if I made myself sick from the exertion, what if I ran across a bear, what if I fell down an embankment?
I should point out at this point, that, given the right combination of circumstances, we can manifest our thoughts into reality. In my case, I promptly tripped over a tree root, flew head first into the middle of a huge rhododendron on the embankment below me, and in what was a priceless bit of slapstick, tumbled slowly down the bush, landed briefly on my feet and then promptly did a face-plant into the hillside. As I lay there checking for broken bits, the voices of doubt started a chorus of “told you so, told you so”. Bruised, sore, and with an entire choir of defeatist voices in my head, I did the only thing I could do. I picked myself up, climbed back up to the trail, and finished my run. Why persist when the nagging voices of doubt had been right? Because, by doing this, I feel the connection between mind, body, spirit, and my environment in a way that I haven’t been able to otherwise achieve. If it costs me a few sore muscles and bruises, so be it. It’s a price I’m willing to pay.
My attitude toward my spiritual path is much the same. There are a thousand reasons not to strike out on a seeker’s path – there are dangers in those woods as well. It can be lonely, difficult work. It is, after all, easier to take the path of least resistance – whether it’s spending Sunday morning either on the couch or attending services at a church of my family’s faith. I’m not interested in the easy way, however. Stumbling along and falling down is a part of the journey, whether trail running or forging a spiritual path. We grow and learn, not when everything goes smoothly, but in those moments of error, those times when we trip over an obstacle. Today, I learned that I can roll with the punches, no matter how many times a little voice in my head says “quit now”. I also learned that when I commit to walking (or running) along a path, I’d damn well better pick up my feet if I don’t want to get up close and personal with the local flora.