I was at an event the other night to listen to some outdoor speakers talking about healing in nature. It was a really inspiring event. Towards the end they opened it up to questions and someone asked a really good one. To paraphrase, they asked if it was being in nature that helped people or was it the outdoor community and finding like minded people. I thought for a split second and knew the answer for me was nature but most in the room seemed to side with the community. This was a bit of a shock to me. I needed to get lost in the woods before I felt comfortable with the community or did I do it all wrong.
Lost and Found
Getting lost on a hike wasn’t exactly what I needed. Or at least in the traditional sense. I never got lost on the trail. Way to many gadgets tracking my progress to get physically lost. Instead, I needed to get lost in the woods. I needed my thoughts to get lost in the endless miles of tall pine and dirt paths. Each step away from the trailhead was a step closer to clearing my mind.
The mind can get busy while you are alone and especially alone in the woods. Intrusive thoughts enter as quickly as a mountain top wind. Each tree and rock that I would pass would help me get a little more lost. A little more calm. The methodical sounds of my feet and breath allowing the wonders, want to’s, and should haves to slowly slip away. The further I went, the more lost I became.
When my mind became lost it was when I was truly able to find myself. The intrusive thoughts were replaced by positivity. Wonder replaced with affirmation. Want to’s changed to have done’s. It took me a while to realize what was really happening. The transition from lost to found would come closer and closer to the start of each hike. Before I knew it I would get into this state of mind the moment I stepped out of the car. Just me. Alone with nature. Both small and humbled by the world around me and larger than life in my own story. Calm. Lost and then found.
I have always spoken to the people I see on the trail. The quick few minutes of pleasantries and advice on what to expect were welcome. Smiles just as warming as the sun. These brief encounters never took me out of my lost mindset. We were best friends one minute, never to be seen again the next. I enjoyed it.
Those brief encounters never really passed on to hiking with people. There is a very small amount of people that I hike with and I absolutely love my time doing so. But that is because of the people and our relationship and that they are close friends. It is the very rare and special person that I can hike with for the first time and feel comfortable, but I have found a couple.
It isn’t the people that join me on the trail but rather that I can’t get lost when I am with someone else. The focus is more about keeping pace, saying the right things, or making sure they are enjoying themselves. Therefore, there is no time for me to lose myself. I have to stay present. And I love staying in those moments, and have had amazing times on my partner hikes. But that is the one thing missing. If I am never lost can I be found? Is it nature or the community that is really healing me?
Same Question, Different Answers
Now that I have spent a lot of time getting lost in the woods, I am more comfortable with hiking with others. I do group hikes. I hike with my close friends more often. The times I spend getting lost are fewer but I don’t need to find myself as often either.
This is why I am so fascinated by the question asked in this speaker series. Has nature healed so many in the outdoors or has it simply been friendship and common bonds? Everyone’s journey into the outdoors is different. And I don’t mean to say that there is a right answer. Besides, as long as it is working, who cares the reason.
But I know that I needed to get lost in the woods. To watch those trees and rocks pass by like a filter for my mind. To see the world from a different perspective. One not seen on a busy street or an office building. A perspective that I can only find by getting lost in the woods. And finding who I really am.
More from The Fatman
If you enjoyed this post you may enjoy more of the posts on my Fatman’s Rambling page. Blogs such as “Screw it, I’m Trying”, “Hiking Alone not Lonely Hiking“, “Winslow, Arizona” and “Another Year” as well as many others may interest you there. If you have any comments or topics you would like me to cover, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can keep the conversation going by following me on any of the below social media platforms.
Losing the self to find yourself is a spiritual theme found in many traditions. You’ve captured this theme in ways accessible to many people.
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