Monday, September 25, 2017

Hiking as a metaphor

“Stupid hiking sticks! Why do you keep breaking?!” I said frustrated while beginning a hike. I had attempted three times to find a hiking stick and peel the bark off. The first two attempts left me with a broken stick that was of no use. I was trying to get the bark off by whacking the stick against a rock, which did the opposite of help me. I must have been taking out some anger while hitting the stick, because it worked at first, but then, inevitably, the stick snapped. The third time I decided to try my patience and scrap a small area at the top clear for my hand, and leave the rest full of bark. My stick didn’t have to be smooth to work. This took a total of five minutes, with no success, and once I started using it my hand turned orange and the stick was so heavy it was making the hike worse! Finally I forfeited the idea of using a hiking stick and the end result was incredible. I realized, after wasting part of my morning at the bottom of the mountain looking for the perfect stick, that I did not need a hiking stick at all, and I could do it on my own.

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As I continued the hike that day, my mother and I began talking about the mountain, and the hike, as a metaphor for life. We hiked a mountain that was rough terrain and full of boulders, and to my surprise a hike that actually did not require a hiking stick at all. My mom had to hold her hiking stick up for half of the hike because it was getting stuck in the gaps between the rocks. As we walked through the trees, then carefully across valleys of boulders I began thinking about how climbing to the peak is just like trying to reach a goal in life. If I looked up at the top for too long, I would surely fall or misstep along the way, and if I looked down for too long there was no way I was going to see which way the trail went. If I focused on what was in front of me, and remained aware of the moment at hand, I was able to walk at a steady pace without falling. This made me think of how the top of the mountain is like a goal we set, the bottom is our past, and the trail in front of us is our present moment. I looked both up at the peak and down at where I had already been. I saw the point I was trying to reach, which kept me forging ahead, and looking down gave me confidence that I could do it. We can use a goal as motivation and the past to remind us where we have been. The key, however, is to make sure not to get lost at either end. When I focused on the trail ahead, and took in the beauty of what surrounded me, I felt at ease and knew that in time I would reach the peak.

In life it is easy to get caught in our past, or rush into the future. I find that if I stay away from the present for too long, I begin to miss the things happening around me. Living life in the moment will bring you joy, and hiking is one way that I practice living in the moment. So the next time you take a hike, or even a walk, think about each step you take and the metaphor of living in the moment. Please feel free share any stories about how you have been able to live in the moment, or any experiences you have had like mine!

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