Taking a step back from the mouse race
I was sitting in a coffee shop that gloomy autumn day giving life lessons to my friend Ivan who was in need. I was sharing my wisdom about “living in the moment” and finding happiness in the simple things in life.
Then I went home and re-started the complaining about Steve getting that promotion I felt I deserved.
As I was watching myself in the mirror washing my teeth I was thinking about the words coming out of my mouth and the words that were there just a few hours ago. I was disgusted by my hypocrisy and saddened by the realization that I approached life in the same way as Ivan and I was in the same rut, just slightly better with words.
I was talking the talk but I was nowhere near to walking the walk. That exact moment is the moment I remember as a life-changer. Today I call it the mirror-moment and my trail name is “The Mirror Man”.
I knew then that I had to change something or else I am going to live and die without ever tasting life and true freedom.
But change what? Change how?
I had no idea.
The next morning I was a changed man
That’s a lie.
Nothing drastic happened the next morning. Again, I drank my instant coffee with two Stevia, had my fritter and drove my Hyundai to work.
What did happen is the realization that I need to change and that realization, I now understand, was itself a huge change.
I needed to stop being the train on the rails of my life. I needed to replace those rails with something. Didn’t yet know how but I knew that “the rails” had to go. And in time, they did, I replaced them with an upgrade. That upgrade was a mountain trail.
Getting out of the rut
We are in luck that we have the brains we do. Oh man, we can’t even begin to comprehend how lucky we are and what a gift our brain is. From God, Buddha, Universe…call it whatever you want, I’m just grateful for the greatest gift ever.
It might sound dorky for a hunk hiker (the hunk part are not my words 🙂 ) but I started researching how our brain works and each day of that research was like a machete in my hands that cut through the jungle of my confusion and fears.
If you feel like I’m getting touchy feely or going overboard with the philosophy, you better stop reading, because there’s more where that come from.
Our brain has what psychiatrists call plasticity. This simply means that it’s very efficient at creating new neural pathways. And knowing the mechanisms of our brain’s plasticity can be the difference between being alive and living.
It’s somewhere in our early thirties that THE FEAR strikes (at least for me) – the fear that we are set in our ways and that what lies ahead is just more of the same stuff on auto-pilot.
No, not the Bible. When I say the book I mean a book called “Recognize Your Fear and Face It” by Dr. Susan Jeffers.
It changed my life.
It thought me about changing the ways I think. But it didn’t just talk about it, like the charlatan wisdom I fed Ivan with that night at the coffee shop, it actually showed me ways of changing my brain in order to change my mind, if that makes sense.
Those were my hiking beginnings
I experimented a lot back then in pursuit of happiness and freedom. I experimented with meditation, yoga, other self-help books and audios but when I hit the trail for the first time and slept in what is pretty much just a ditch, I knew that was it. That was my “hook” and the secret passage to a fuller life.
I grabbed my hook and never let go.
Through the muscle aches and the sore joints I experienced CLARITY like never before.
I was well aware then and there in that ditch that I was on my way. And it felt great.
The businessman and the Indian
As I was slowly drifting into sleep that night, a joke I heard years ago somehow popped up in my mind.
It’s a story about an Indian who lays on a hill, a businessman and their conversation.
It goes something like this:
The businessman, “How can you lay there all day long and not do anything, what do you eat?”
The Indian: “I just go down to the lake and catch a fish when I’m hungry”
The businessman, “But why don’t you catch more fish, sell them on the market, save up, buy a boat so that you can catch even more, earn even more, and pay someone to do the fishing so you don’t have to do anything?”
The Indian, “But I don’t do anything now.”
No, I’m not saying to go lay on a hill an eat just raw fish and I know you know that, hikers are a smart crowd.
In the modern day, this story translates into finding that sweet spot, that balance between providing for your family and not loosing yourself in the mouse race. Finding your way to the point of living and not just being alive – that pursuit of clarity, inner peace and freedom.
For me it was hitting the trails and, chances are, if you are reading this your story is not that different.
In the next part of the “Hiker’s Guide to Joy” I’ll be sharing my views and appreciation of the sweet, sweet nectar of freedom only the great outdoors can give you a taste of.