Long distance hiking adventure season is rolling to a close in the United States. The hikers whose blogs you’ve been following are just starting to arrive at their destinations and post photos of themselves at their respective terminus’ jumping into the air and crying and hugging the monument markers. They look skinny and bedraggled and you can’t imagine what they’ve been through. It tears you up a little bit, doesn’t it?
Well, it’s a trick. They haven’t been through any more of an adventure in the last five months than you have, rolling across the terrain of your own life. I’m not trying to demean an adventure traveler’s experiences or accomplishments, I’m just making the point that you had just as much fun this morning meeting friends for coffee before work. You got as genuinely close to the Divine in life when you felt the first sprays of hot water from your morning shower. You overcame the same tests of strength and endurance when you did 12 pushups from your former record of eight. In the last 5 months, you’ve met incredible people, and you’ve lost some. You’ve had to push through extreme overwhelm and exhaustion to get through a day. You went somewhere you’ve never been before and you’ve beheld the miracle of the animal world when your neighbor’s dog had puppies. You’ve cried or wanted to at least once.
You don’t need to go anywhere.
As a matter of fact, when you do go somewhere, you have to spend an enormous amount of energy just getting to a baseline of okay-ness, orienting yourself well enough that your survival instincts shut up and let you even begin to think about the more abstract things like who you are and what your mission in life is, let alone trying to establish any kind of rich spiritual life. No one is evolving rapidly in their life or in their self development any more than you are by doing extreme things like walking a long distance trail. I assert we may even be delaying it a bit. We are looking for water, and a way to recover from shin splints, and for a person that will listen to us speak for a moment so that we can feel some relationship. What makes an endeavor like long distance hiking seem so adventurous and rich in experiences is because it gives you the opportunity to be acutely sensitive to yourself and your surroundings. It puts you in participator mode, scintillates you, so that you really take in your experiences. Of course I will enjoy and value someone I’ve met on the trail more than someone I meet in the city, but it’s not because they are a more exotic or interesting person, it’s because I’m primed to embrace the occasion. I’m on full alert, and I’ve taken the time to remove myself from my routines and be open to them. Really exotic and interesting people pass by me every single day as I go about my business at home. I won’t talk to them, generally speaking, but I could. There are absolutely stunning landscapes within 30 miles of right from where I sit this very second. As a matter of fact, my neighbor’s rose garden doesn’t seem like it could even be real its so beautiful. I’m not always looking at it. But I could.
Right now, where you sit reading this blog post, you have very real and interesting challenges to overcome. You have beautiful people in your life and people you want to get rid of. You are immersed in an environment that offers exotic things to see and engage with. You could do one thing differently and grow as a person. Scintillate yourself. Be primed to embrace the occasion of the life you stand in. You don’t need to go anywhere. It’s a trick.