When I returned from the Appalachian trail it was easy to feel. My emotions, like my body and breath, ran strong and deep. Emotions surfaced suddenly and ran their course like summer storms. I was an empty vessel, quickly filled with feelings without notice; and just as quickly they poured out…
“I am large; I contain multitudes.” – Walt Whitman
The meditation of thru hiking stripped away patterns of normalized anxiety. I had constructed my behavior, and my emotional self, on my ability to engage with work, email, social media and to-do lists. Outside these dominant forms I found myself rich in emotion – overcome by abundant wonder, fear, sadness, humility, excitement, laughter, gratitude and love. I realized I had been using the crutch of anxiety, the “glorification of busy” to define my whole identity. Busy-ness had overridden the diversity of my person – my body, emotion, and intellect. I had allowed my mind, and my wandering thoughts to take over completely.
The meditation of walking allowed me to release myself from this egoistic pattern, and experience again the full spectrum of human emotion in an immediate way, becoming emotionally available to myself and those around me.
Being back in the city now I’m trying not to fall into the trap of wandering stress, aimless anxiety and endless to-do lists. I fought so hard to free myself of this anxiety on my first thru hike, and again on our trip to Guatemala, but it’s not unlike depression or addiction, where the pain itself is known, and it’s familiarity has become comforting.
And here it is. Returning to the city I return temporarily to the shackles of perceived productivity, busy-ness, email chains and social obligations. I am awake now to the trap of these samskaras (negative patterns of thinking) and know they don’t define me. Yet I am still temporarily enthralled by their siren’s song… fooled into thinking they are important somehow.
I hike, meditate, practice yoga – I do all these things to preserve the purity of what I accidentally experienced on my first thru hike; a true unmediated vision of myself. A comfort in a mind that has burned out all thoughts. An experience of joy in my body, my breath and movement. Mind, body and emotion inextricably connected.
I want to make this my new normal. I want to return to the state – where through physical exhaustion, the magnitude of nature, or the quiet of purpose – I understand that everything I need is inside of me. Where I can finally release my addiction to the stresses of civilization, realizing they are just my ego distracting me. My truest purpose; just being. Myself!