Meditation is the practice of training your mind.
You can meditate to improve your emotional positivity, develop concentration, control your thoughts, clear your mind, enjoy the moment without worrying about the future or thinking about the past and for many, many other things.
Mindfulness is one of those areas of your mind that you can develop by meditating.
It's a calm state of mind achieved by being fully aware of your environment and your thoughts, feelings and sensations in a given moment without judgement. You only observe and accept.
In this post, I'm going to mention how can you be more mindful during your next hike and improve your overall outdoors experience. If you'd like to take this kind of mindset outside hiking, learn about more mindful ways to live and travel.
1- Accept your thoughts
During hiking, there will be times that your mind starts to wander and you become unaware of your true environment at that moment.
You might start thinking how to talk to your best friend you argued the last time, what are you going to wear to your sisters birthday party, or how nice was it to spend the whole day near the lake with your family 3 years ago.
This happens to everyone. This is considered normal in today's world.
How to cope with it? Simple.
Stop coping with it.
Don't try "grasping" on to your pleasant memories and "rejecting" the unpleasant.
Once you accept any thought that comes to your mind during hiking (or, during anything else), you'll also slowly start to accept your environment at the moment too, and eventually begin "existing" there.
2- Use your senses
To get into a meditative mindset, I realized that using my senses, especially closing my eyes and focusing on each and every sound around me helps me a lot.
Don't close your eyes while hiking, though (duh)...
Just listen. Once you accept the thoughts that come to your mind, gently bring your mind to the sounds around you at that moment. Listen to the wind, forest, sea, animals, other people or any other sound around you.
It works wonders for my awareness.
Your feet are always in contact with the trail you're hiking on. Try to feel the earth under your feet, whether it's smooth or rough.
Don't look. See.
See the marks in tree trunks. How the leaves move with the wind. Observe the trail.
As our minds aren't trained to cherish the everyday details, it might take a little time. But if you're patient enough, you're going to be astonished by the things you see in nature.
Eating your nuts and drinking water are actually amazing actions. Their taste and satiety feeling are one of the most primitive rewards for us humans. Food and water!
Close your eyes, be quiet and grateful, and eat them mindfully.
3- Stop the rush
During our day to day lives, we continuously go pleasure after pleasure. When we're stuck in traffic we're mad because we want to optimize our time and have our brains to produce dopamine. When we achieve that one thing we crave, it's not long that we start chasing something else.
And we end up running from one place to the other - like an instant gratification monkey.
This too is considered normal in today's world it's highly likely to be experienced during hiking as well. Impatiently, you're going to want to arrive your destination, rest and eat.
When you catch your mind in this state, simply take at least a minute to stop walking, be quiet, calm down, take a few deep breath and be aware of the environment around you. Forget about time and your destination completely.
4- No smartphones
This one is self explanatory.
Unless you want your hiking experience to pass by, stop using your phones.
You're doing the exact opposite of being mindful. You're busy with something that's not even there and you're unaware of the nature. That's basically telling your mind to wander and not to be present in the moment.
5- And obviously... meditate!
"Grasping" and "rejecting" mind states mentioned above are a mental habit. Quitting them completely are impossible, but there are specific meditation techniques to reduce it.
Meditation, especially Vipassana Meditation takes hard work, but it's the most effective tip of all.
Vipassana Meditation is a meditation technique used to gain insight to the true nature of this reality. In other words, it's a meditation technique that trains your mind to be more mindful.
How do you do it? It's simple.
Notice what I'm telling you. It's simple. Not easy.
Especially the first time. No, actually more like first 2-3 months. At least for me it was. A man with a monkey mind that loves jumping from one thought to another, again and again, not experiencing or aware his environment.
We all can predict how this affects hiking.
That's why, I'd recommend starting to meditate around 3-4 weeks prior to hiking to sense noticeable improvements to your overall hiking experience.