Walk, Think, Breathe!

Early mornings I walk, and as I walk, I think.  As I think, I breathe.  I look at my feet as they hit the ground and see rocks of varying colors, sizes and shapes. I am careful to step over large boulders, and I walk carefully over soft sand.  As I listen to the sound of my hiking boots hitting the ground, I find my mind wandering.  Thoughts come and go, demanding to be heard.  I struggle against them as I hear the sound of birds interrupting the constant drone of ideas coming in and fading out.  I see ravens, large and majestic, against the blue sky, squawking, almost gliding beside me.

It is warm today.  The sun is high in the sky already at 10 a.m., and wispy cirrus clouds appear to the north, blown in high streamers against a brilliant blue with the San Bernardino Mountains in the distant northwest.  Ahead of me to the south I see puffy cumulus clouds against a backdrop of the high snow-speckled San Jacintos, and in my peripheral vision to the southeast, I see the Santa Rosas, brown against the green of the San Jacintos.

I walk almost every morning up a road that leads to the Palm Springs Tram Station.  My walk goes from 0 ft. to 2000 ft. elevation in about 3.5 miles.  That translates to a steep walk uphill.  I make myself walk out the door about .2 miles to the point where the road starts.  I walk all the way up 3.0 miles to the gate and then turn around.

Somewhere along the way I find that place within myself where clarity and peace reside.  Some mornings I sit on a log beside the road and feel slightly guilty that I’m resting instead of walking; but I  get rewarded with more clarity and more peace as I discover my noisy thoughts have faded away to where all I hear are the intermittent cars passing, birds singing, distant thunder sounding, and planes roaring in the sky.  And then I hear the voice.  That still small voice that speaks to me.  The words I hear bring me peace:  “It will be all right, and this too shall pass. Keep on keeping on.”

I lost my main job last March and have worked as a tutor, writer, and healer since.  I have had moments where I didn’t know how I would stretch one dollar into the next day.  I began to feel that I was in control of absolutely nothing.  Then I joined a hiking club because I enjoyed the outdoors and always felt a sense of calm when walking. I soon discovered that the hiking treks gave me a sense of control.

Feeling in control is so soothing and empowering, and I find myself going out every day up the trail to the San Jacinto Mountains National Park.  I have lost weight, but more importantly, I found a friend in the outdoors, a friend I look forward to communing with every day.  And when I can’t go out for some reason, I feel as though I’m neglecting my soul.  I feel as though the outdoors is my cathedral, and I feel as if I am communing with God and spirit on the days I allow myself the trek.

Walking is good for the soul.  According to the American Medical Association, when a person walks for at least two weeks for at least 30 minutes a day, it has a better effect on depression than many of the drugs being used for that purpose.

I find negative thinking giving way to more positive ways, and I know that for me my walking works in conjunction with my thoughts to form a more positive way of being.

When I walk in nature, I hear many sounds that relax and settle me.  I hear many varieties of birds.  Even the sound of my own feet hitting the earth has a soothing effect.  Just yesterday I found myself being followed by a low flying raven.  It swooped low, and I could feel the rush of its expansive wings as it began to take on height.  I felt so invigorated.  What a rush—and a little fear—as I wondered if it would get any closer!  Then, farther up the road it landed, pecking at some unfortunate creature that had died.  “That’s right,” I told myself.  “I’m still breathing.”  Ravens are scavengers that eat only the dead.

I am still breathing and walking and listening as I allow the journey to my sanity and peace to be made on foot; and I realize I am ushering in a more positive atmosphere of thought.  Henry David Thoreau wrote, “A single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind.  To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again.  To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”  I believe I   make deep pathways to peace and inner stability with each step and with each breath.

By Lisa Trimarchi

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