When we go hiking, we find ourselves immersed in nature, her secret life quietly mystifying, slowly unveiling itself for us in fleeting glimpses of the enormous whole: a songbird here, deer tracks there, and all around, the sound of cool, rushing water. These moments manage to be simultaneously tranquil and energizing, filled with the slow but irrepressible energy of nature, and coax us to understand more of our world, and our own inner world, as we peek closer at the connection we have with nature.
The woods and mountains provide such a deeply regenerative atmosphere that seems to speak directly to the soul. In a way, the wind, the trees, the still earth beneath our feet are our first language, and in the mountains we find these first words and their nurturing hold again. The short, but steep, hike I went on took several hours of a crisp winter morning. It is the only hike in the Smoky Mountains National Park in which you can walk behind a waterfall.
In the woods, everything has meaning. Each leaf, twig, bird and rock has a contributing presence to the whole. This is in such sharp contrast to our own lives that we fill with meaningless clutter. Each time we go into the woods, nature speaks to us a different lesson. Perhaps this lesson takes many visits to learn, or perhaps we learn something new each time. This weekend, nature spoke to me in the slow unveiling of her changing wardrobe, and in the dark, shimmering rock that withstood centuries of crashing water. I had not felt so at peace and ease, so quietly open to my surroundings and their impact on my inner self.
As I stood behind the waterfall, surrounded simultaneously by the most permanent and most mutable things on the planet, I felt impacted by the impermanence of choice.
Often, we decide to do things differently. We decide to forgive, or to be mindful, or practice self-care, or to better regulate our emotions. But often those choices seem to rush away, forgotten, the next moment our emotions are roused. It is only through repetition, by consistently practicing fully with our minds and bodies that we can carve a permanent channel of successful change for ourselves.
I promised to come back, but the thought is not enough. Only by doing so and beginning a series of return hikes in the area will the activity become regular and not forgotten.
So it is with everything. If we desire something, it is through concentrated and repeated effort that our path will clear itself. Then our lives can flow freely in the direction in which we wish to go.
As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.
~Henry David Thoreau