Alone in the Woods

I went for a hike this afternoon. Ran along a ridge line from peak to peak (small mountains) and then back down to the field where I'd parked. Getting my heart going, gulping in the much fresher air of the park--it's truly a fantastic way to clear the mind. Much in the same way that I find myself focused when I sail or SCUBA dive, when I wander through the woods I feel the day-to-day stress peel away.

My core group of friends are Eagle Scouts and we periodically venture out along the Appalachian trail when we can all get a bit of vacation time. There's something primitive about a handful of guys gathered around a fire which no other experience parallels. It's satisfying on a spiritual level.

I feel that our culture de-emphasizes the importance of this type of spiritual experience at its own risk. Most of my peers are quite out of touch with themselves, unsure of their purpose. They address this with escapist solutions such as Facebook and Netflix or alcohol and marijuana. Very few take that uncomfortable silence and choose to focus within, to reflect on their experiences and emotions.

Over the past several months, I've begun to meditate more regularly. I find that sense of stillness again, but rather than quieting the multitude of thoughts, I'm beginning to develop the ability to step back from them.

I wonder how the conversation taking place in our country today might look if our leaders exercised a degree of self-control and developed a practice of reflection and spiritual awareness. I can't help but think the dialogue might assume a more mature tone, and diverge from its current emotional and hyper-reactive nature.