Hiking and Meditation go together



Have you ever found yourself enjoying the outdoors, breathing in that fresh air? It can be exhilarating. You feel alive as oxygen fills your lungs and mind and bodywork as one. Hiking gives the opportunity to prolong the experience. But the hiking experience can be enhanced even more when you meditate.


Why hiking and meditation are linked

When out hiking, there is a need to tune into your body. You test your muscles, listen to your heart rate, and breathe deeply, feeling the connection with your lungs especially when the going is arduous. When you listen to your body, you feel the challenge. At times, you may doubt your abilities. That last peak is just too testing or you feel the first waves of fatigue. You may feel nervous or, doubt your fitness levels. Sometimes, you just have to stop and readjust and prepare yourself for the next stage.


Whether this is a natural stopping point on your journey or, you just need to take time to mentally prepare, turn your attention inwards. This awareness is mindfulness, a way of turning the attention inwards and of truly living in that moment. Consider how you are feeling. Listen to your heartbeat. Tune into any muscular tension and let that tension dissipate. You can combine this mental search of the body with the breath. Breathe in slowly and steadily and on the deep exhalation, release muscular tension.


If there is any agitation within, or perhaps, self-doubt, that interferes with your peace of mind, imagine a corridor within those cluttered spaces. Mentally clear that area. Create space within. Breathe into that space, seeing it expand in the mind’s eye. This calming technique can offset any bombardment of self-doubts or nerves. You will feel a sense of peace. Then, extend your senses to your environment so that you become a part of this place. Your approach becomes instinctive. You take in the scene around you, noticing all the myriad of colours and the depth of foliage. Feel the breeze against your skin, sense the coolness of low clouds and feel the warmth from the sun. Perhaps take a moment and close your eyes to sharpen your senses of the touch of the breeze, smell of the fragrance of the vegetation or the sounds of the birds excited by your presence.


The benefits of meditation

There are so many benefits to meditation. When the mind refuses to be still, meditation soothes and releases the bombardment of thoughts. It creates and instils inner peace and wellbeing. So, it is useful before a hiking trip and during a trip so to heighten the senses. Afterwards, when reconnecting the mind and body, it helps replenish energy levels. Meditation can be used on an emotional and physical level. Meditation enables a sense of harmony as well as anchoring you to the present. When you are out on a hiking trek, you may carry the stresses of daily life with you. In time, the exhilaration of life on the trail may relax the mind, providing the trigger to release tension, but until then, meditation is a door to unleash the senses. If you feel anxiety, or your mind is locked in the embroils of daily life, meditation becomes the release trigger, quelling inner anxiety. Regular practice of meditation leads to contentment and inner tranquillity.


Embrace a walking meditation

Hiking demands a great amount from you while on the trail. It makes sense to be at the pinnacle of health and fitness before attempting a serious climb or before embarking upon a trail of some distance. Of course, in addition to the route being challenging, there will be times when the scenery is less than inspiring. During these times, turn your attention to a walking meditation. Focus all intent on your movement. Feel the rhythm as you walk and the sensation of your foot as the heel is placed down, followed by the rolling movement through the ball of the foot and the toes as they strike the ground and you push forwards. Let the movement be natural and not forced. Let the rhythm move through your shoulders as your arms aid progression. Again, notice your heartbeat and the cool air moving into the lungs and the warmer air being released. Feel the muscles working as you make your way towards your destination.


A walking meditation increases focus. It helps during those arduous trail points and then be able to fully engage with the scenery once you reach the desired plateau. There’s nothing like gazing across an expanse that inspires heart and soul. So, a walking meditation is perfect for when you want to focus with clarity. Notice the different muscles being utilized as you walk up and downhill. You connect with them, relying on these muscles to take your weight and to protect you from falling. Engage with your core muscles as this helps to stabilize your movement.


When you practice mindful meditation, you are aware of all around you, but perfectly in tune with every part of self.


Awareness

On any hiking expedition, awareness is key. You must pay special attention to the weather conditions, noticing the cloud formations, the breeze and the colour of the sky. Atmospheric changes occur quickly, so having your wits about you is important. When you become a part of the scene, with nature, every reaction is instinctive. Every movement is deliberate. You notice the boundaries to cliff walks, you feel the route up through the mountains, feel the damp, springy ground beneath your feet, or the dry, parched soil of a sun-baked mountain. Absorb every sight, sound and scent.


Hiking for the joy of it

When you are out hiking, you gain many simple pleasures of being one with nature. There is beauty all around, whether the rugged and craggy mountain slopes with distant ice-capped peaks, or, the smooth undulating lines of rolling hills and valleys, each terrain is special. As you walk, you feel the sensations within your body. Each step gives you sensory data. You are truly living. Every difficulty and every challenge overcome provides inner joy as you feel nature embracing you.

A heightened affinity for nature infiltrates your life. Greater inner peace. Enhanced self-esteem. A quiet confidence that if I could do that, I can do and should do whatever I really want to do. More appreciation for what you have and less desire to acquire what you don’t. A childlike zest for living life to the fullest.” Larry Luxenberg

If camping out, you have more time to relish all those experiences. To rest, to sit quietly and to recover from the assault on your muscles. You may ache, but in a good way, tune into these minor pains and relax aching muscles by using your breath. If you find this difficult, stretch the body, tighten it, then release. The benefits will be tangible. As the skies darken, notice the stars, the sounds around you, and let the healing power of nature engage with you. Nature is calming, it is inspirational and affords a sense of tranquillity within and all around.


When settling into your camp, don’t think about the past or the future. Mindfulness means living in the present, right here and now. Just focus on the breath, gentle in and out and feel the rise and fall of the chest as the lungs extend and then, deflate.


Live the experience

When settling into your camp, don’t think about the past or the future. Mindfulness means living in the present, right here and now. Just focus on the breath, gentle in and out and feel the rise and fall of the chest as the lungs extend and then, deflate.


To make meditation and hiking an intrinsic part of your life, practice both as often as is possible. Together, they enhance the experiences gained when out in nature. They bring the experience to life. They make you a part of it. You are not simply walking in scenery and getting fit; you are living that experience in ways you may not have imagined.