No two hikes are ever the same. I know because I’ve climbed the hills at my favorite canyon dozens of times, yet each and every trip is different. One morning I might see a hawk swooping down to snatch a squirrel, while on the next day only mockingbirds appear. I might hear snippets of juicy gossip from hikers passing by, or nothing but blissful silence. Even the path is constantly changing with not-so-pleasant surprises like loose stones and potholes that challenge my balance.
Recently, I set my sights on finishing the three-mile loop at Fryman Canyon in record time. Yes, that competitive drive from my former athletic days has never disappeared, but on that particular morning, it was more of a nagging feeling pushing against me. “Hurry,” the voice inside my head scolded, “Stop splurging on fun when there’s work to get done!” That all important to-do list was fighting for attention. Isn’t exercise important too? I silently railed. Nevertheless, the tick-tock of my inner clock kept pushing me to accelerate my pace. Heeding the call to be more productive, I marched past everyone I could – moms pushing strollers, men talking business, girlfriends exchanging gossip. Imaginary crowds cheered me on, as sweat poured down my back. Did I mention that it was ninety degrees that day? Or that the first half of the trail is: STRAIGHT UPHILL!
By the time I reached the halfway point and rounded the curve to start my descent, I was gasping for air. Dehydrated and thirsty, I couldn’t chug water fast enough. My feet stumbled over bits of dust as my heartbeat throbbed in my ears. A fun escape suddenly had turned into a grueling workout. When I lifted my gaze, I felt like one of those actors in a western who sees a shimmering oasis ahead, but wonders if the desert sun has made her delirious. Not ten feet away, tucked beneath the branches of a small tree, was the most welcoming bench I had ever seen!
Made of concrete and wood, it was solid and sturdy. Surely, I had passed it numerous times before, yet I had never really seen it. “Rest,” it seemed to say. “Take a break, enjoy the view.”
So I did. The valley, hundreds of feet below, was still drenched in lushness from the spring rains. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, inhaling the fragrance of lavender and catching the familiar buzz of a hummingbird nearby. The sudden rush of a cool breeze against my hot skin made me smile. When I finally opened my eyes, I saw a world draped in glittering sunshine. Every tree, every blade of grass, and every particle of dust shimmered with energy. Dazzled by the light show, I forgot all about my very important to-do list. In fact, time itself vanished. There was no past to ruminating over. No present to stress about. No future to plan for. There was only air, space, and the rich hues of green hills, blue skies, and yellow wildflowers dancing around me.
As though waking from a dream, I slowly became aware of other hikers passing by … of dogs barking … of those all-important tasks that needed to be done. But I chose to linger a few seconds longer, taking in one last glance at the expansiveness around me. Thank-you, I whispered to the universe. The whole encounter hadn’t lasted more than five minutes – nothing more than a pause in my routine – but it was enough to shift my attitude. Beauty. Rest. Awareness. Three powerful forces that converged in the breath of a moment managed to shift the energy and attitude of my day.
When I stood up and walked away, I felt different. My legs were stronger … my mind calmer … my heart lighter. In a word, I was refreshed. According to Webster, I had received an influx of fresh mental strength or energy. And it happened because I gave myself permission to hit the pause button, which allowed me to get lost in the timelessness of the moment. From that dreamlike state, I awoke with renewed energy and perspective.
So the next time you feel yourself getting entangled in the rush to accomplish more or to finish a long list of chores, give yourself permission to pause. And when a resting spot appears on your path, grab it! Maybe you’ll get lost in the flutter of butterfly wings or the melody of a powerful song. Maybe you’ll drift away while staring at the stars or inhaling the scent of the forest. The “where” or “how” doesn’t really matter. It’s the “letting go” that will revive you.