guest post by Joan M. Griffin, author of Force of Nature: Three Women Tackle the John Muir Trail
“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Step
Hiking can be a wonderful way to integrate meditation into an active, outdoor lifestyle. Even a short walk along the trail can be an opportunity for mindfulness.
Nature invites us to be in the present moment and to connect with the world around us. The raw beauty of nature makes it easy for the hiker to tune into the sensory input coming their way. Noting and appreciating the sounds and smells, the textures and colors of the natural world around us grounds us in our physical bodies. Feeling the soil or the stone underfoot and noticing the touch of the sun and the air on our skin puts us solidly into the present moment.
Hiking invites us to pay attention to the rhythm of stepping and the rhythm of breathing, a focus that will calm the hiker’s mind. The rhythm of one’s steps and breaths can create a poem-like, or chant-like, pattern when noticed together and can be deeply calming, almost hypnotizing. Distracting thoughts of day-to-day issues slip away, until the path and the step, the breath and the sensory beauty are all that remain in those moments.
Nature invites us to feel a deep sense of gratitude, something meditation teacher Thich Nhat Hanh emphasizes is an important ingredient in any strong mindfulness practice. The hiker might feel gratitude for the natural beauty, for weather and seasons, for open space and quiet, for solitude and companionship, for time, for physical movement and good health.
While thru-hiking the 200-mile John Muir Trail with my two hiking partners, I often found myself slipping into a meditative state while walking through the majestic environment of the Sierra Nevada. The rhythms of hiking, combined with the sensory beauty, grounded me and allowed me to “become one” with the trail underfoot and the nature that surrounded me. I was filled with gratitude and awe. I describe several of those moments in my adventure memoir, Force of Nature: Three Women Tackle the John Muir Trail.
Three friends, women in their fifties, set out to hike “the most beautiful long-distance trail in the world,” the John Muir Trail. From the outset, their adventure is complicated by self-inflicted accidents and ferocious weather, then enriched when they “adopt” a young hiker abandoned by her partner along the trail.
The women experience the terror of lightning at eleven-thousand feet, the thrill of walking through a towering waterfall, and the joy of dancing among midnight moonshadows. For a month, they live immersed in vast natural beauty, tackle the trail’s physical demands, and find camaraderie among an ensemble cast of eccentric trail characters. Together, they are pulled forward toward the trail’s end atop the highest peak in the High Sierra, Mt. Whitney, and the culmination of their transformative journey.
About the Author
Joan lives under the spell of wanderlust. She takes wing, whenever possible, for actual destinations near and far and for literary locales in the pages of books. A native Californian, Joan lives in the Northern California foothills of the majestic Sierra Nevada, a world she loves exploring. Joan navigated her way through two careers—marketing computers, then sailboats—before applying her love of storytelling to her dual passions for teaching and writing.
In addition to working on her next book, Joan teaches women’s history and literature for the OLLI
programs at Sierra College and UC Davis Extension.
You can find her online at:
Website – https://www.joangriffin.us/
Substack/Blog – https://joangriffin.substack.com/
Facebook Author – www.facebook.com/joangriffinauthor
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/griffin.joan/
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