Mind Games

Yesterday on a solo day hike in our local mountains, the stunning Wind River Range of Wyoming, it struck me how aware I was of myself and my surroundings. Or, myself in my surroundings. Maybe it was because I had no one to talk to. I wasn’t alone-my trusty golden retriever, Jack, loped along a steady twenty yards out front the whole way. (Jack also hiked 1,000 miles of my Appalachian Trail thru-hike in 2004 so he is no slouch when it comes to churning out the trail miles.) He isn’t exactly a conversationalist, however, and yesterday that was a good thing.

The quiet allowed me to notice what was around me: the rushing river, the chatter of birds, the squeaking of trees rubbing together, the scuttle of unknown animals in the bushes, the wind in the sagebrush, and the shuffle of my feet in the dust. There were my thoughts, too. They were steadily passing into and out of my awareness settling nowhere, really. It was almost like they were being sifted through a set of filters. Some were being tossed aside, others were finding a nook of my mind to settle into to wait for later. A few would momentarily demand attention but were soon thrown out at the prompting of a bird call or sudden shift of wind. How comforting it was to feel that all of this-those things inside and out-moved to and fro with a gracefulness not usually apparent at home.

I’m contrasting this with another recent experience. This one at home midway through a hectic week. I was alone, privately taking care of business. My mind was frantic. Happy, but frantic. My thought pattern went something like this: “Hey, before I know it I’ll have a new classroom full of second graders. Oh, but before that I’ll be back in California at the second life coach training. What’s before that? Oh, yea, our llama trek. It’ll be great to finish the length of the Winds this year. And next week we’ll begin our motorcycle certification class. Oh, and don’t forget about the sidecar training. Whew, this will be a busy summer. Now what about home improvement projects? How will we fit those in? How far away is the Fourth of July? Joe’s family will be coming up for that weekend. Where will they all sleep? I wonder what’s for dinner tonight? Do we have any wine? Gotta check my Facebook page when I’m through here.” And on and on and on it went. Finally, my mind  caught itself up short with an exasperated,  “HEY, HOW ABOUT YOU JUST FINISH PEEING, THEN YOU CAN GET ON WITH THE REST OF YOUR OBSESSING!”.

Am I alone here? Is there anyone else out there being held hostage by their own mind?

Alas, I have no solutions. The benefits of being present, slowing down, enjoying each moment before moving to the next have been stated by numerous sources. And I believe them all.  I get it, I do. I experienced it on my hike yesterday. Is that the trick? For me, maybe I need to be physical out in nature for the magic to happen. Maybe experiencing it so simply will be reminder enough to try to bring it into my more everyday life. That seems like a good start. Good luck to me. Good luck to you. Let me know if you have any remedies for the obsessive mind spell I’m often held captive by. Until then, I’m off on another hike. Hope the magic lasts.