Adventuring in the back country is an activity I’ve always been drawn to. What brought me out there was a desire to explore the path less traveled and to experience the great outdoors. However, what keeps me going out there is much more than that – it is the splendid state of mind that I sometime experience while out on a journey.
Mindfulness. “A mental state achieved by concentrating on the present moment, while calmly accepting the feelings and thoughts that come to you, used as a technique to help you relax.” (Oxford Dictionary) This came as a unexpected revelation. I had never really considered mindfulness or its benefits, nor was I seeking to experience it in any way.
What does mindfulness look like? For me, it occurs occasionally during a back country excursion. It’s when my mind is cleared of all thought except that precise moment: I focus solely on the movement of my body to create the next stroke. I hear the sounds of the water rippling as the paddle enters the water and I feel the energy it creates to propel the vessel forward. The cooling sensation of the slight breeze on my face. The short reprieve from the midday heat as the sun slides behind a cloud. One by one, I see the passing of each tree, each rock, each bay on the shoreline. The knowledge that each stroke is bringing me further away, yet closer. Away from the day-to-day yet closer to my destination, wherever that may be. This collection of feelings and the ability to experience them completely brings about an internal peacefulness that I have never felt anywhere else.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen on every adventure. The right travel companion(s) and co-operative weather conditions are just some of the variable factors that must align immaculately in order to create an atmosphere where mindfulness can happen. I never set out expecting to achieve a state of mindfulness because there are too many factors that are out of my control. But every now and then, it just… happens. It’s an exquisite feeling, both serene and therapeutic. Returning to the hustle and bustle of every day life seems less daunting when you’ve made peace with the universe.
That is mindfulness. It is what keeps me going out.