Hiking to Heaven

Nature beckons to us all.  The scent of pine perfuming a quiet woodland attracts our senses in a way that is foreign to the secularized world.  It’s non-commercial.   It’s not savvy, chic or trendy.  It’s hardly changed at all, in hundreds and hundreds of years.  The things that really matter in this life don’t need makeovers; aren’t cheaply politicized by Godless, self-absorbed politicians and happily exist far from the noise, the lies and the hype. 

For those among us who seek God, this need for contemplative silence tugs repeatedly at our weary souls.  We need to get away.  We want to be outside.  We spend so much of our time dealing with the physical side of our natures at work, doing chores and handling all that makes up the human condition that sadly, we neglect our spiritual nature.  This neglect in turn, adversely affects everything and everyone else in our lives; including our relationship with God. 

The smallest effort to connect with the outdoors can quickly bring us in touch with the prayerful part of us that longs for God.  Notice the change in your interior state after a mere 20 minutes spent walking the dog or watering a garden.  We can escape our tech enslavement and quiet our mind while witnessing a sunset sky on most evenings, if we make the effort.  This small act decreases our stress, increases our joy and assists us in altering our perspective on life.

On most days, I’d rather be hiking along a mountain trail with my husband, Chris. 

Chris knows the mountain.  He’s aware of the point where one trail meets another and which route is a tougher trek to the summit.   At all times, he’s cognizant of the miles we’ve covered and the elevation we’ve achieved.  He’s the planner and the pack mule.  On long hikes, Chris carries the lion’s share of the water we’ll need, as he leads the way through a wilderness pass.

I follow his lead while taking in panoramic views and lovely bursts of nature on the path.

On the trail, we find ourselves face to face with countless examples of startling beauty or what I have come to refer to as ‘God’s designs’.  At first glance, these artful combinations appear simple, but look closer and contemplate the complexity.

When hiking, your mind naturally drifts away from the noise that petty thoughts create.  This is the start point of contemplative thought; that is, the state of mind that brings us ever closer to God.  There’s not much room on the trail for head noise.  Rising to the physical demands of the ascent requires meeting that challenge by creating a rhythm between your breathing and your strides.  As you increase your conditioning strength, your ability to hike improves.  As I have become a stronger hiker, I find that my thoughts are more and more focused on the evidence of God all around me; instead of singularly coping with the physical demands of the trail.

On a recent early morning hike, Chris and I had the honor of sharing the trail with a doe and her fawn.  We were rather wonderstruck by it all ... as these deer were less than 20 yards ahead of us.  We watched as the fawn bounded along, with her mother close behind.  Neither doe nor fawn appeared bothered by our presence and the four of us hiked together this way for nearly a half mile until the deer wandered away.

Having grown up in Chicago, I understand all too well that quite often, local geography may not cooperate with a desire to go hiking in the mountains.  I also recall that the state of Illinois has plenty of forest preserves, nature centers and local trails that can also provide a tremendous hiking experience.  Hiking can happen wherever you live.

If you want to slow down, tone up and tune into God, then go hiking.  Just as we must consciously make both the effort and the time to pray, we must also plan, prepare and show up at the mountain to hike.  What a great way to pray as you walk along the trail and inhale the clean mountain air.  God is found in the silence, as we are told by our contemplative brothers and sisters.   Silence the head noise, kick up a little trail dust and hike your way to heaven.

{If your dogs live for their daily walk, they will absolutely love hiking!}

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