Monday, April 29, 2013

As They Say, "S**** Happens!"

        Morning hikes on trails surrounding The Golden Door spa in California are a highlight of my annual visit as a guest presenter for Spirited Walker Week. As I climbed the slopes this month, it was clear, as always, that human walkers aren’t the only travelers on this network of trails. Each day bought fresh deposits of animal droppings that reminded me of a break-through moment I described in Healing Walks for Hard Times.  I think the story bears repeating. I hope you'll agree.

 What You See is What You Get

       Whether your journey leads you over city sidewalks or rural trails, it’s inevitable that sooner or later your steps will lead to a deposit of something unpleasant at your feet. If you’re aware and mindful, you’ll sidestep it, avoiding a direct encounter with the residue left behind by another traveler on your path. It’s like the once popular bumper sticker proclaimed, in language bold and explicit: “Shit happens.”

        In teaching walking workshops, I’ve had opportunities to contemplate that expression on trails across the United States. Some have been beautiful and rural, some as common as a parking lot. Participants in these walks confront it, too. Frequently, I introduce the Sensory Scan focusing technique to enhance awareness of surroundings. By giving attention to what can be seen, heard, smelled, or felt, walkers get present—in the moment and in the setting.
        What did you notice?” I ask when we pause after a few minutes of Sensory Scan walking. “What did you senses reveal?”  
        "The sound of the breeze rustling in the trees,” someone may say. “The smell of sage in the desert.
         Eventually, the comments shift. Someone clears a throat and cautiously mentions the “droppings” on the path. “Did you step in it?” I ask. With the laughter comes awareness. We all encounter unpleasantness on life’s path, but maybe, if you are being mindful, you don’t have to carry it home.

         The metaphor expanded a few years ago when I followed a tai chi master on a silent, mindfulness hike in the desert bluffs of southern California. The route led up a gentle mountain trail and wound down to a shaded labyrinth. All along the mountain trail, dark droppings affirmed the popularity of this path with the local coyote population. As I mulled the presence of this visual blight, a smile began to form. Those wily coyotes had deposited a lesson at my feet: What lay on the trail was simply the waste product of substances that once provided food and fuel. Stripped of nutrients, the coyotes discarded the waste and left it behind. The metaphor followed me into the labyrinth where my footsteps gradually guided me to a subtle recognition of the similarities of shape in the coils of the sacred labyrinth and those of a human digestive track.

     ‘Leave it on the trail!” my mind shouted in delight as the insight settled into my cells. “Use it and then let it go.”
      On any path, an encounter with scat at my feet reminds me to discard what no longer sustains and nourishes me. This is not an excuse for irresponsible pet owners who ignore sanitation policies. But rather than dwell on outrage or indignation, it offers me an alternative perspective on a natural phenomenon. On the mountain trails I love to travel, the droppings affirm the rhythms of life, of taking in and letting go.

     Hanging on is a hindrance to moving on. It’s true that anger, fear, bitterness, and sorrow are vital and useful at times. Caution, stubbornness, persistence, and pain serve a purpose, too. Take what you need from life’s emotions and experiences. Let them guide you in knowing what is important. Then, know when it’s time to walk away. Only you can decide when the nutrient value of an emotion or experience is depleted. Walking helps.
                         Excerpted from “Moving On” Chapter, Healing Walks for Hard Times

Sign up above to receive A Spirited Life entries via email. "Like" the Spirited Walker page on Facebook to read blog notices there. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share your thoughts: