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If You Like HIKING, You Must Read This.

// Mindfulness in Daily Life //

Being a keen hiker and a mindfulness teacher, I have received over and over the same comment  -“aah, hiking is a way to be mindful”, as if engaging in cross country long walks in itself would bring alertness to the present moment, with compassion and no judgement.

My inner voice was telling me that Mindfulness was not intrinsic to Hiking. My frequent experience hiking regularly with groups has signalled to me ,also something very different. I often have found people seldomly stop talking while hiking, they just look a couple of meters in front of them and have a deep appreciation of the surroundings when they stop at an iconic point; perhaps a waterfall or a view point. Besides, I have experienced that if there is more than one group hiking, the disturbance created by the group in front disrupts the environment in a way the following groups do not have the chance to experience, for example, wildlife at its best.

All those experiential findings were far from a mindful attitude and practice of hiking. So, still consumed by the question about the connection between hikes and mindfulness I decided to do some research, reflect on the topic and come up with some ideas. I want to share them with you, in this article.

Hiking starts with finding an appealing outdoor area where to walk, most of the time gaining some elevation and having some degree of difficulty on the terrain. Being in nature creates a great opportunity to find calm and peace: it can also be extremely restorative and healing. However, experiencing a mindful hike requires something more than just going for a hike. The first extra ingredient required is to bring about the “intention” to be mindful. You need to exercise a conscious effort of being engaged with your senses while absorbing all the environment offers to your sight, taste, smell, hearing and tactile experience. Otherwise, you can miss a lot!

Sustaining a mindful attitude throughout a hike implies also awareness of “distractions” and to treat them skilfully. One of the most common distractions is to “chat all the time”. It is great to have a conversation with a fellow hiker, perhaps getting to know that person a bit better or deepening the connection with a friend. However, it is important to be “aware” that you “choose” to have that talk and only for a while. The opposite of that mindful talk is to speak in automatic pilot “because that is what you do all the time”.  When you choose to be in silence, you choose to be with yourself and that creates the occasion to experience the present as it unfolds in a hike, step after step.

Another normal distraction that everybody experiences is “the mind’s work”, therefore THINKING. While hiking, like within any other activity in your life, your thoughts happen all the time. Sooner or later your attention will go to them and it will drift away from the present experience. Then, you will be planning what to do after the hike, dwelling into a hypothetical conversation or perhaps rehearsing something from the past. When you discover your attention there distracted from the direct and immediate experience of being hiking, bringing your attention back to it, is the key.

Bringing mindfulness into your hike will deepen your connection with nature, will assist you in becoming more mindful into all areas of your life, it will amplify the positive effects that a hike can have on your well-being, transforming the experience into a much more substantial one.

So, the next time you go for a hike, why not bring mindfulness into it?

Know more about Mindfulness & Hiking  and how to participate in a guided experience to engage each of your senses, while  immersing deeply in nature.

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