Of course hiking isn’t all mountain top experiences or epic Facebook photo-ops. If you hike regularly enough, much of it can start to feel pretty ordinary, actually, like my hike last weekend, where I woke up in an out-of-sorts mood. It was one of those moods where the trajectory of one’s life just feels off track, yet upon further examination there’s really no particular reason to feel that way.
In the past, this melancholic frame of mind might really throw me off, leading to a variety of interrogations: perhaps I’ve not got my shit together in life, or maybe I haven’t been meditating enough, or perhaps I’m in hte wrong place, doing the wrong thing, and on and on, trying to locate what’s wrong or what’s off.
I don’t really take my feelings very seriously anymore. Does that sound drastic? I don’t know, maybe it is, but the mind and the heart are a bit crazy and seem to me to be so very random so much of the time. Frankly, it’s hard for me to take it all too seriously these days.
To sit in meditation is to notice how wild and random one’s thoughts and feelings really are. This is especially true on an extended meditation retreat. Thoughts and feelings will at times go a bit berserk, the mind will jump from one thought to the next, from one subject to the next. Buddhists call this “the monkey mind.”
It isn’t that I repress the kinds of crappy feelings that I’m experiencing, before I head on the day’s hike. Nor is it that I am not present to them. It’s just that they begin, they endure, then they pass away. It isn’t entirely unlike a hike: you walk, you see, you feel, and maybe you meet people along the way.
On that count, I generally try not to meet people, but on my most recent trek up to Bonanza Mine the trail is swamped with hikers. Perhaps I exaggerate, but for this trail there are a lot of people. So I decide to hike up to a ridge where I know I’ll be alone, a trail less traveled but yet with the mine still in sight. And it’s fabulous. There’s just wild, stark wilderness, for mile after mile. Here’s a picture, but really the photo can’t capture sense of joy I feel when I can look out over all of these hills and peaks and see beyond them to more hills and peaks:
Then I look back, to where I came from, and behind me noisy tourists are making their way up the trail. You can see them below, taking the switch backs:
After enjoying the view, I feel like the shitty mood has lifted, dissipating perhaps in the vast open sky that stretches across the range of mountains. I decide that I’ll take a detour on the return trip and stop at the ice caves.