This is a blog about hiking in general and the John Muir Trail in particular, but occasionally I drift off topic. Last year I told you about what I called the World’s Greatest Workout. I’ve also recommended five restaurants one can find between Happy Isle and Lone Pine. This entry is even further afield.
I should begin by telling you a little about myself: I’m about as non-new-age as you can get. I don’t believe in the “Age of Aquarius,” despite being born an Aquarian. I think almost all alternative medicine is bunk. I do not eat organic food (does that mean what I eat is “inorganic”?). I’m about what you would predict for a guy who was born in 1955, raised in the Midwest, and spent thirty years in the Army.
That said, for the past month or so, I have started meditating. Yep…eyes closed, steady breathing, the whole enchilada. I do this because of a little book called “10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works – A True Story” by Dan Harris.
Mr. Harris is a hotshot reporter for ABC news. In 2004 he had a panic attack, on the air, in front of several million people. That set him off in search for some answers. In the decade that followed he found, explored, and in most cases rejected one charlatan after another in search of a way to prevent it from happening again. After sifting through more manure that any one man should rightly endure, he actually found a pony: mindfulness. He makes a pretty compelling case for it in the book.
Speaking of the book, it’s terrific. It’s really only about one-third a “self-help” book; the remainder is a memoir that is eminently readable. I was fascinated by his stories as he sought answers from people every instinct told him were fools and scoundrels. In fact, that’s the other self-help lesson from the book: in most cases, trust your instincts.
I started practicing “mindfulness” the day after I finished the book in May. I’ve missed only three days since, and on those days I really missed my period of meditation. I’m up to fifteen minutes, which seems about right for me.
How does it help? As the title implies, it just makes things a little better. When speaking in front of a crowd (I’m often called upon to brief groups of people) I find myself hunting for the right word far less often. During our recent vacation to Tokyo I also noticed that I was doing a lot more of enjoying what was around me, and a lot less of planning what I was going to do next.
Which brings me back to the John Muir Trail. One of the techniques Mr. Harris discusses is “walking” meditation. In “Planning Your Thru-Hike of the John Muir Trial” I mention how the best part of the hike comes between Donahue Pass and Glen Pass because, between those two points, you are neither starting nor finishing, you are just hiking. In a way, it’s about 150 miles of nothing but meditation. No wonder I always feel so great afterwards!
Good hiking, Ray