Yesterday’s hike, March 10, was a tough one. Not the actual trail. I went on Cottonwood again. I had intended to go up Cottonwood 300, a branch, and did walk up it about 100 metres…but then I turned around and went back to the main (flat) trail. It went like this in my head:
Me: I’m going up Cott300 today.
(I turn up the road. The road peters off, and turns into a trail covered in moss and grass, still easy to walk, but steeply uphill.)
Me: Meh, it’s not a real road. I’m going to go back to Cottonwood Mainline and I’ll just go farther, actually cross the river this time.
(Last time I went to the river crossing, I didn’t cross. Didn’t relish getting my feet wet.)
So I went back to the mainline and continued on. The hike was damn difficult, though. These are notes that I made during the hike.
- constant negotiation
- hard to remain present
- slow, lots of breaks
- more pain
- 2km mark is hardest, more to go than I’ve gone
- 4km mark brings real relief
- on the way back, 4km mark brings feeling of crushing defeat
This was one of the hardest hikes I’ve done yet. It took me almost an extra hour because my pace was much slower and i needed more breaks. the uphills were, haha, an uphill battle. I felt like I had to struggle at every step to convince myself to keep going, keep moving, keep walking, please. My mind split into two voices, the petulant child whining about not wanting to do it and the cold, furious adult completely ignoring the whiny one and forcing the exercise to happen. The day was pleasant, warm, sunny for some of the hike, overcast for some. The dogs were happy, the birds were singing. I found these beautiful fungi at the river crossing.
The real difference in this hike was me and how I felt internally. My divided stance on this hike made me heavier, made me really drag. But I pushed on. I negotiated. I pleaded with myself and told myself if I did the hike, I wouldn’t have to do something else (though I don’t remember what promise I made, so I can’t really keep it…sigh).
Another thing I noticed was how hard it was to remain in the present moment and concentrate on my surroundings. Instead, my head was off into ideas about the newsletter/newspaper I’ve volunteered to take on in my town. This is a subject that I find really exciting, and I clearly would have rather been playing with that. Going for the hike was an obligation and I really didn’t want to do it, so my mind rebelled and thought about anything else it possibly could. I was flying off in the future, or circling around in the past, for much of the hike, unable to ground myself in the present like I’ve been trying to. The buddhist teachings I’ve recently been interested in talk about the importance of being in the present and how you lose your energy if you spend it in the past or future. I also think that not being in the present moment robs me of the experience that I am participating in at that moment, so what is the point in doing it. However, the specific point of the hike yesterday was discipline, and learning about myself. I learned that something that I enjoyed immensely a few days ago turned into a heavy and difficult burden for reasons I don’t even understand. I felt my pain and exhaustion deeply. Every step was hard, every pebble was an obstacle, every tiny shiny thing was a distraction my mind leaped to contemplate so it could be anywhere but there, hiking.
So I did some internal checking in and negotiating and learned that there is part of me that wants discipline and respects discipline and wants me to achieve goals in order to help me work towards larger goals, sort of a practice run. Then there’s another part of me that hates being forced into something that I don’t want to do, and rebels and makes things difficult when I don’t want to do something and drags heels, etc. But when that part is allowed to do the thing that I want to do, it does it full force, whole-heartedly. The problem is what happens when the two parts want different things, so they have to find a way to work together. I have begun to find this hiking challenge tedious because I feel like there are a number of other responsibilities that I have that I cannot fully attend to because I have to take 2-3 hours out of the daylight to do it. It would be handy if I could hike in the dark, because then I could do the other things that come up day to day, like garden, etc. But there is the disciplined part of me that wants to practice seeing something through until the end, simply to finish it.
So I will finish my challenge, but I also want to negotiate, to be gentle with myself and to do this challenge in a way that is healthy for me physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. So, remembering a discussion I had about non-violence and being gentle with myself, I’m going to tone down the all-or-nothing attitude I think I’ve been approaching this with. I now believe that I will still gain plenty of benefit from this personal challenge, but I don’t necessarily have to achieve exactly 10km every day. Nor do I have to hike EVERY day, though that is still my goal and I still want to strive for it. But I don’t want to force myself. Luke’s friend Nick, who recently visited, related that when a lay practitioner’s attitude becomes resentful, sullen, angry and unpleasant in regards to what they are doing, it is no longer the right practice and that is when you begin to do violence to yourself–when you force yourself to do something that feels like unpleasant work that you resent doing. This will just foster negative feelings in you that will injure you, rather than fostering positive feelings in you that help you grow. I’m trying to use this idea as a guide, but I find it challenging to agree with. There are many things that I don’t feel like doing, or resent doing, or projects that I start with gusto and then stop. If I only did what I felt happy and joyful doing, I worry about what would not get accomplished. And how will I ever have a job with that attitude? I don’t know the answer to those questions.
With these thoughts in mind, and remembering how unpleasant yesterday was, I looked out the window this afternoon when I got home from my errands and decided not to do my hike today. I have the negative feedback loop running around my head, plaguing me, but hell, I just don’t feel like it. The weather has turned rainy, not like a light mist but buckets of rain (good for the new raspberry bushes I planted!) and the dogs look like they need a day off too. They’ve been sleeping a lot and limping around a little. So I give myself permission to take today off, and I know this doesn’t mean I quit and it doesn’t mean I fail. What it really means, I guess, is that I am making this personal challenge sustainable. I am listening to myself and acknowledging my needs; I am listening to my internal voice and honouring what it tells me today instead of succumbing to negative, ingrained, feedback loops that play in there. After all, that’s the purpose of my life right now…learning to listen to myself and honouring my inner intelligence and having trust and faith in myself that I know what is best for me today, and in every moment.
One last internal check-in in the present moment. A deep breath. I close my eyes.
Do I want to hike again? –yes.
Do I want to hike again today in the rain? -hell, no.
Okay. I can honour that. I choose to be okay with that answer. I choose me over the thought of what others might think of me in the future when I tell them that I didn’t hike every day. Not today, and I’m still achieveing my challenge, and I’m still moving forward with my goal. I honour myself, and I continue to learn from myself every day. Lovingkindness and non-violence are concepts that I am allowed to apply to me, too.