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The Anatomy of a Hill

For today’s Mindful Monday post, I would like to share with you a story from my weekend run.

One of my favorite weekend morning activities is to go out for long runs on the trails that surround my home.  Sometimes I go with my running partner or another friend, and sometimes I go alone.  The dirt trails are surrounded by verdant green hills, the settling early morning fog.  It is beautiful, whether overcast and drizzly, or bright and sunny.

This weekend, I was running along the trail, when I came to a steep, rocky hill in front of me.  I immediately slowed to a stop, and looked up at the hill with uncertainty. I didn’t think I could make it up the hill, and I thought about turning around.  That’s when I noticed that the first part was a gradual incline that I could easily run on.  So I started running again, slowly, then more aggressively, up the gradual part, and then up the steep, uneven terrain.  I am not sure why I was pushing myself so hard, nose down, eyes to the ground.  It’s not like I am an Olympic competitor, but rather an amateur, weekend warrior.

I quickly fatigued, and slowed to another stop.  Breathless, I walked up the remainder of the path, until I came to a quiet clearing that overlooked the paths and valleys below.  My inclination was to keep on going.  But instead I stopped, and took in the view.  I loved the feeling of being alone in nature, surrounded by the weight of reassuring silence.  It was the feeling of being at peace.

Running the hills on a trail is a lot like how I approach running the hills of my life.  When approached with difficult circumstances, I automatically stop, and assume it’s going to be too hard.  The apprehension and anxiety about how hard it is going to be is often worse than the climb itself.  But often once I get going, I realize that there is an initial starting point, an opening, that is no doubt doable.  And then, as I move along, I push and push and push, too hard and too soon, nose and eyes down.  I stop admiring the view.  And by the time I get to the top, I am too breathless and fatigued to even enjoy arriving.

Instead, when I walk, take my time, enjoy the process and the direct experience of my efforts, it is both the journey, and the destination, that are the reward.

Perhaps this is trite and obvious, but it is something I forget over and over again, everyday.  In the midst of trying to reach imagined end points, we exhaust ourselves, and forget to notice and experience all that happens along the way.  And as we reach the top of the hill, with no air or energy, there is nothing left.

Running reminds me that there is no separation between the hill and the top of the hill, and all that follows.  It is all the run.  It is all important, scenic, full of vitality, if we can connect to it.  The quickening and slowing of our pulse and breath are part of the natural rhythm of being here, in this life.  I don’t want to miss any of it, either lost in my anxieties about what is to come, or in my disconnection of trying to get there.

In the week ahead, I invite you to consider if there are moments when you disconnect from yourself or your experience, in trying to get “somewhere.”  What would it be like to enjoy the journey too?

With gratitude,


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