If there is one thing you have enough of when walking in the mountains – or anywhere else for that matter – it is time inside your own head. In day-to-day life I guess most people will often be too busy to listen to what they themselves have to say to themselves; no such luxury out in the desolate areas of Nepal. Initially, you look up at the 1,000m vertical that you are expected to climb in the next few hours. You sigh, wondering how they have not thought of building an escalator here. Mechanically, you lift your right foot. It feels heavier than normal, but your body knows the drill, so your thoughts can follow their own path.
You curse to yourself at first. Those silly Nepalis! Couldn’t they have build more bridges? (You know that everytime you go up, it is immediately followed by a down.) Stupid me! Why didn’t I train better before, when I was preparing for this trip? Bloody monsoon! Why do you wash away the path, making it into an obstacle run? It goes on like that for a while. Your mind just scolds. It regrets what you haven’t done in the past, hoping in the future you will do it differently.
When after an hour or so you realize your negative thoughts really aren’t helping you to climb the mountain – actually, they might be working against you. You decide a 180° change is needed. Positive approach! Flex your back. Adjust your backpack. Up we go! Enjoy your surroundings. Look at that view, those gigantic trees. It’s real nice to be walking here: it’s so quiet and peaceful. The air is fresh. Your feet move faster now. Your bag seems lighter. You can think clear and even dare to venture a glance upwards…
That bloody mountain just never ends!
You start to feel a little desperate. Until you realize your desperation is pointless: it won’t make the mountain any less high, nor the road ahead any less short. Turning back? Never an option. The place behind you is a valley. And a valley means it’s surrounded by mountains on each side. So you sigh once more and straighten your back. The only way is up, therefore you might as well enjoy it! Even though you regret the fact you are not as fit as you should be – right now there is nothing you can do about it anyway. You hope that the near future will bring you better shape – though that means hard work and sacrifice.
Regret and hope are useless emotions as they just take us away from the present. Regret is about past events: we cannot change it, so we might as well move on. Hope regards the future. We are not there yet, so there is no point in worrying about it. Ofcourse we need to take the future into consideration, and we cannot just ignore the past. What I mean to say is we need to learn from our mistakes of the past and apply them in such a way to the present that we don’t do the same thing again in the future. Never forget that the time we live is now. And that is the only time we need to worry about – for lack of a better term.
If it’s not good now, stop and change it. Be aware. If you don’t know what you should do or how, go for a walk. Walk slowly. Feel your feet touch the ground with each step you take. Feel the wind in your hair. Feel the sun on your skin. Experience your walk in such a way that you forget why you went and walked. Once finished, you’ll know what to do next, because you are fully aware, you’ve reached mindfulness.
(Reading material: Buddha Mind Buddha Body by Thich Nhat Hanh)