Here’s how you meditate: You sit on a cushion, close your eyes, and just breathe. Right? Well, not always.
Sitting is one way to meditate, when the body is still but the mind is busy. But there’s also another way, when the mind is still but the body is busy.
Any repetitive task can be meditative if done with mindfulness, and what’s more repetitive than walking? Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot… You get the picture.
I’ve been doing a lot of walking recently. Really getting into it all of a sudden. When you’re puffing your way uphill and concentrating on not slipping and landing on your behind there’s not much time to think about anything else. Talk about one-pointedness!
I keep joking that my little bouts of walking over the past few months are like a meal. The starter was of course the Sivananda Summer Retreat in Wales.
We saw some inspiring and energising sights, but the walks were necessarily short due to time restraints. After that course I was keen to do more. So, a few weeks later, when I went to visit my friend in Austria, I got to enjoy the main course.
My friend is really into her walking and let me tell you, it’s amazing how much you can get done (and how far you can go) when you get up and get out the house in the morning!
I really caught the hiking bug when I was in Austria, and I think you can see why, so when I got back to England I kitted myself out in loads of new gear (I discovered jeans and Caterpillar boots are not ideal hiking equipment) and set out for a little bit of ‘dessert’.
Luckily, at the moment, the Lake District is right on my doorstep.
Beautiful, no? You don’t forget sights like that in a hurry. I certainly felt like I’d eaten my fill. But, as it turns out, that was not to be the end of my ‘meal’.
The coffee/mint/brandy and cigars (?) to the whole thing was an epic walk to the top of the highest peak in Wales (and second highest in the UK) – Snowden.
This was where I found a good challenge. It’s all well and good doing a walk when it’s lovely and sunny, but when the weather turns on you then where are you? Hopefully, calm, concentrated, and above all well prepared.
When I set off you could see the weather was going to be a little ‘interesting’. NB: That’s Snowden in the background… somewhere.
It started off getting cloudy…
Then it got wet…
It got hard to see where you were going…
Until eventually things started getting a little silly.
Just before the top I had to huddle behind a rock to check my map, battered by the wind and hail. I wasn’t worried. I had maintained mindfulness of my situation all the way up, I knew where I was, knew the dangers, knew what I could handle, and if I couldn’t go on I was prepared to get back down safely if need be. Just one more benefit of maintaining a meditative practice.
As it turns out though I was just a few minutes from the top! I just couldn’t see it because this is all I could see (seriously).
Conditions were a bit nuts at the summit. Really wet and windy.
So it was with a real sense of achievement that I made it there.
I even, for old times sake and because I haven’t done one in ages, did a headstand picture.
Couldn’t do it right on the top. The wind was too strong.
After the experience of getting up there, going in the summit cafe to warm up was both very welcome and highly bizarre.
You can get a train up to the top….
Which I heard in the clouds as I reached the peak, and which I thought was the wind. Really freaked me out. But not as much as walking into a room full of tourists. Quite a surreal experience.
I celebrated my achievement with some tea and cake (and a pie)…
And then it was time to contemplate the descent.
I came down quicker than I went up, because I knew once I got below 800 metres I’d be out of the wind and rain. Of course it started off wet…
But soon things started to clear…
And I could look back with a sense of achievement…
As well as enjoying what the future had in store.
Not least of which was a set of warm, dry clothes, lol.
Walking and leaving the world behind is a great way to centre yourself, and bring you into the here and now. Walking in a mountain top gale doubly so. But like all things in life, if you go forth well prepared, both mentally and physically, and you keep your head no matter what happens, then success is yours for the taking.