LR10: Barefoot Hiking

Sandstone

The goal for LR10: Mindfulness is to learn to live more in the moment, to strip life down to its essence. To get rid of the nonsense, and truly experience what I normally take for granted.

Becoming a vegan is perhaps the purest, most consistent way for me to be more mindful for it forces me to think about everything I take in. There is no drive thru for a vegan. When you’re at a party you can’t just grab a handful of whatever is put in front of you. You have conversations with the creators of your food, the chef. I think through the menu before making a reservation. I call days in advance to chat with the chef about possible dishes. It has made me more mindful of the chef’s part in my meal. Every meal has become more intimate for me.

Spiked Oak Leaves, Sticks and RocksLast year, I broke with my long held tradition of not running unless someone was chasing me. After reading Born to Run (my favorite book from a previous resolution to read 50 books in a year), I developed an interest in running. It started with weekly 5k’s, then a half marathon, a sprint triathlon and finally an ultramarathon. I bought a GPS watch, started tracking my trail runs and competing against my best times. Instead of enjoying my time in the mountains, just Stella and me, taking in the scenery, breathing in the air and sorting through my thoughts, I was focused and concentrated. It took all the joy out of hiking.

Sharp, annoying little rocksI wanted to return to my old ways, but it’s hard to break a habit. In fact, it requires extreme measures at times to break a habit, even one as simple as not running when you go for a hike. My solution? Go barefoot.

You see, running barefoot hurts. These aren’t asphalt surfaces, they are trails of spiked oak leaves, lined with poison oak, populated by rattlesnakes, with lots of sticks, sharp Atop Saddlerock Trailrocks, hot sand and tons of sandstone, which is like walking on sandpaper, not to mention the occasional dog poop. When you hike in big hiking boots or even trail runners, nothing fazes you. Water, rocks, poison oak, even snakes are of little concern. Hiking barefoot, on the other hand, requires you to be aware of every hazard including the threat of a stubbed toe. Essentially, it forces you to be mindful of your environment, to be aware of everything directly in front of you. Everything else is a distraction.

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LR10: Mindfulness

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Random Karmic DroppingsBefore I explain what this Learning Resolution is about, it may be helpful for you to know a few things about me, particularly as it relates to this topic. I am contemplative and introspective by nature. Well, the term “by nature” is really a cop out, so I’ll go a bit deeper. These character traits are driven by the combination of an insatiable curiosity and my absolute disdain for hypocrisy.

That hatred for hypocrisy forces me to always question my own motives, perspectives, tendencies and biases, before passing judgment on those of others. It demands contemplation and introspection, but they must be balanced and unbiased in order to offer true value. I am constantly working to improve my process. In fact, these resolutions are themselves part of that effort. But there is a problem.

Many people who have had a heart attack, follow their doctor’s orders immediately after, but as time goes by, revert back to their old ways. We all know, or perhaps we are, those people who swore to the porcelain god that they would never drink that much again, only to one up themselves a week later. The point is,┬áthere are moments where we achieve clarity, or what I define as “right mindedness”. The problem I eluded to is that those moments are fleeting. Life tends to interfere.

We get caught up in firefighting. Our ego takes over. Anger clouds our judgment. Fear consumes us. Whatever it is at a given moment, we tend to gravitate away from the right state of mind. Occasionally, something beyond our control snaps us out of that funk and brings us back to right mindedness. It’s always a life altering event like a child moving away, tying the knot, divorce, a new baby, but the most jarring events involve someone’s health. You hear things like, “it really puts things in perspective” or “at a time like this, you really appreciate what you have.”

This resolution is an attempt to learn how to maintain that kind of clarity at all times, to always appreciate what I have, who I have, and where I am, but also appreciate what affect my actions have on my clarity, and on the world around me.

P.S. I had been considering “mindfulness” as a resolution for some time, but a recent event got ┬áme to pull the trigger today. I eluded to it on Facebook today.

“This week I had a pretty traumatic health scare, which had me contemplating my imminent death. Two things became crystal clear to me. 1) No matter what we think, we don’t actually live everyday like it’s our last. 2) If we are about to die, what’s the point in jumping out of an airplane, reading the great American novel or anything else that heaps on a new experience, since the memory of it will die with us. Instead, every last second should be intended to improve the lives of those who will continue on in our absence. So next time you think, “screw it, I’m going to live like it’s my last day on earth,” don’t spend lavishly on yourself or drink yourself into oblivion, instead do something nice for someone else. Be absolutely and completely selfless.”

LR 10: Mindfulness Posts