I’ve finally figured it out why I like hiking so much. This all came together over the weekend, when I was trying to get my weekly dose of meaningful TV programming. I was at home on Saturday, having failed to travel to Zomba to attend a family wedding due to other engagements. A TV host was interviewing one lady genius about our search for extraterrestrial life in outer space.
However, my two youngest sons were competing for my attention. I could hardly hear anything above the cacophony of their playful sounds. At that moment, I wished I was somewhere quiet, somewhere in the wild, up on a mountain listening to nature. Listening! That’s the word I have been searching for when talking about my adventures. It all rushed back to me in a second. The moment of comprehension was euphoric. This was it.
In a world where everyone, and everything is talking – literally everything, it has become more important to learn to listen. There is simply no way to learn anything new if we don’t have time to stop and listen. And this involves giving our total attention. It means dropping down everything we are doing, and just listen.
That is what I get when I hike. Not every time but most often. For I get from time to time, companions that are on a phone, or companions that are constantly talking, or asking questions. I don’t mind the last too, but certainly I don’t approve of the former. Bringing the modern world into a nature’s walk seems to me, failure to appreciate the need to disengage from the hustle and bustle of city life, and the need to reconnect with mother nature.
When you get those quiet moments, mostly alone with nature, you discover that the wild is not silent. It has a sound of its own, powerful, liberating, invoking, transporting, captivating. Nature speaks to your soul. The wild draws you into a world where ideas flow. It opens doors buried deep in your spirit. The mountains, the hills, the rolling plains, all dare you to ask more, ask longer, and obviously ask much deeper than ever before. In short, the countryside scenery allows you to meditate about life, and every point connected to the fabric of our existence.
But in order to do this, first you need to listen. And here are the baby steps:
- Remove any sources of distraction – phones, talking watches, music. Yes, music is good and I often immerse myself in it, especially when I’m walking alone. But often times I find that it masks the natural sounds around me. So on days when I want to maximize what I’m getting from the wild, I stop the music and listen to the birds and other animals play it out. That’s when you hear trees talk, and rocks whisper.
- Relax. Don’t be uptight. Really, just relax and enjoy the walk.
- Let the thoughts start filtering through. For whatever reason, nature likes filling up empty spaces. Once you are immersed in your walk, thoughts come back. Like sheep with a brilliant shepherd, they will follow you all the way to the summit and back. Let them accompany you.
- Be watchful. Be on the lookout for amazing moments. When taking a walk in the wild, I’ve often seen people miss out the goodies standing right in front of their path. It could be a butterfly, a beautiful blossom, or a beetle. Something that just untangles the cobwebs in your brain. It could be a perspective on a piece of rock. There’s just so much that unfolds from moment to moment. But you must be alert for such. It is the same with great thoughts. They come and go. They tease you with a fleeting presence. Grab them and encourage them to stay. Connect them to something that is important to you. That way you can always consciously bring them back again.
- Record these ideas. Not while you are enjoying your walk, but when you come to the end of the hike and are taking count of the day. I know that’s not what they teach these days. For we are told to have paper and pen ready wherever we go. But just like we are able to take a snapshot of a bird in mid flight, the brain is able to catch these ideas and keep them for you for a little while. Just download them later before hitting the sack.
- Think. Why are they important? To whom are they important? What will it take to get them see the light of the day. Who should get involved? Think it through.
- Act on them. By all means put them to test, for there’s no point in having great ideas if you are not going to act on them. It means nothing to have a listening ear, if you don’t have a talking mouth that will share these ideas with the world. And what a better way to share with the world other than to act on these ideas yourself? That way, your life will talk louder than your mouth will ever be able to achieve.
Hiking alone, somewhere quiet, surrounded by trees is nature’s way of teaching us how to listen – listen long and deep.