hill, beach or winding mountain expedition?

It’s 2am… As I was trying to fall asleep, my mind began to play with these thoughts. What began as a comparison between two walks has become a bit of a metaphor for how I am understanding my journey from here on out towards graduation.

It’s a bit lengthly but I’ve really enjoyed writing it.

As with every weekend the choice begins.. beach, forest, hill or park. Today I was drawn to East Lomond, a hill in the centre of Fife that, along side it’s sister , West Lomond, create what is commonly known as the ‘Paps o Fife’. I’ll leave you to imagine why…..

As I lay in the dark, I began to compare the differing experiences of climbing East Lomond with that of walking on Tentsmuir beach last weekend. I’d like to just highlight that I haven’t done any meditation this week at all, and I know I have been a bit absorbed in my project. While eating dinner, taking a shower, walking the dog.  I think the following story might shed some insight onto this with time.

As you begin the accent of East Lomond a clear path leads you from top to bottom. It isn’t far, but it’s a fairly steep walk. Today the top was a destination to be reached, a clear goal to achieve, and all I had to do was follow this path at a speed that didn’t leave me too out of puff. Nice and simple.

Sometimes on a walk like today, I have to force myself to slow down. I’m a bit of a marcher. I did pause from time to time, to take in how far I’d come and give myself a pat, only to break into my march once again. I reached the top quicker than expected, and was slightly disappointed when I reached the top.

“What, Over so soon?, I thought,  I wanted more! What a beautiful view though. Is that Dundee? Yeah I think so. How far is St Andrews from here? Oh look theres the road we took! Fife feels so small from here, or does this hill feel bigger now were at the top?”

And before I knew it we began to descended the steeper side of the hill. I bounced between rocks. making the most effective decisions where to tread, in order to maintain balance while holding myself back from bouncing down the hill like a wee goat, so I didn’t walk too far ahead of my partner.

I’d like to compare this experience with last weeks walk on Tentsmuir beach (see previous post). As with today, we began our walk expecting to take a straight path from car to the shore. Only to find our way blocked by a watery obstacle that left us with two choices..left or right?

What started as an inconvenience to our planned walk, created unexpected opportunities for exploration and laughter. The flood transformed this familiar place into an unexpected playground for the senses. The light danced on the surface and reacted with sharp breeze on the surface of the water. The sound of the distant waves became a background track rather than a destination.

It was through a conscious application of the mindfulness techniques we had learned that enabled me to transform an ‘obstacle’ into an opportunity to capture the moments as they unfolded by leaving my plans and expectations behind.

On the beach, there was no goal, just miles of sand and sea to follow until we had had enough sea and sand. There was nothing to be achieved, nothing to conquer and nothing to measure. Could it have been this that enabled me to mentally capture that experience more vividly than today? Today, was I maybe so focused on the goal, that I lost sight of the journey? Or was it that I was in a different frame of mind from the outset today since I hadn’t practiced any mindfulness alone?

I wondered how I can experience a hill  more like a seaside exploration?

I feel a bit disappointed that I’ve maybe been in a hill climbing mindset this week. Marching towards next week, at a steady pace, without much time for exploration. Yeah I’ve been busy, but what more could I have experienced in a different mindset?

The next 2o odd weeks, actually, doesn’t really feel a hilly march a meander on a beach. Instead, I feel like its more like a mountain expedition, like when I did my Duke of Edinburgh expeditions.

I have some training, and some navigation tools and energy in the bank. I even have what looks like a bit like a map and a great team to journey with. There are parts where the route seems clear, and parts where there is no path, only me and my instinct and some navigation equipment.

But like my Duke of Edinburgh expedition, I know that ‘the best laid plans go aft aglay’. Like that time the sole of my boot fell off a days walk from the nearest road, or the day we ran out of water and the burns dried up and someone got heat stroke, or the time my group mate tipped her boiling water over exposed foot..or that time…

You get the idea.

But 10 years on, I understand that it was really these navigation errors, unexpected detours, accidents, and the ability for mother nature to throw 4 seasons at you in one day, that crated the best learning experiences, memories and feelings of  true camaraderie.

So right now there is a goal…its just hidden up a few glens and behind a few hills right now, so I have no idea what the destination will look like.

It’s on the slopes and within those glens that I’m aiming to exercise some of the mindfulness, that turned a flood into a rich an enriching experience. These are my tips to myself

  • Take time to stop and really see what is in front and around you
  • Take more pleasure in this, than the distance behind you
  • Turn obstacles into opportunities for play through embracing the unexpected and leaving expectations behind
  • Remember that you seem to have a habit of choosing a path that isn’t on the map. You like it really, even though it is sometimes a bit scary. You thrive on those experiences, so take it all in your stride.
  • It sometimes feel like the point of the journey is to reach the end, but the memories and the reward is in the glens, not on the summits.

3Am!!!! Maybe I should do some meditation to get to sleep………..