Written By: Jessica Bowen

Photos By: Jessica Bowen

Time is a strange thing. We live so much of our lives by the tick of the clock; working, eating, loving all within time frames of existence. It’s easy to become detached from the present moment, always planning ahead or reliving the past. We often think of our next activity while we’re in another – never fully here. It feels so important to me to find activities that help us sink back into the moment and appreciate the life we are living. For me, hiking is one of those activities.

I used to be an avid hiker, but the past few years I’ve been so busy that I let the hobby slip away. Realizing how out of shape I had become, I decided to make it a regular practice again. A five mile hike seemed like the perfect beginner’s hike for me to get back into the swing of this kind of physical activity. Two friends and I drove up Rt. 7 to a place new to me, Raven Rocks near Bluemont, Virginia.

The hike was rated ‘moderate’ when I read about it online. It was more exhausting than I imagined – but I LOVED it. Sweating, of course, might not seem so fun to many of us, but you feel fantastic afterward! And mentally, it was much more rewarding than I ever remembered.  The physical exertion hiking requires put me into a different state of mind, because I had to keep thinking about the old mantra ‘mind over matter’ to keep myself going on those steep, winding paths.

Pushing so hard while so out of shape brought me to a heightened awareness of the mind-body connection, and of the power -and limits- of our own willpower. Sheer will can bring you so much further than you thought possible! And at the same time, there comes a point  when a short rest is so incredibly needed: sweat dripping, heart pounding, legs shaking… And those limits just make me want to get better. The effort of every step gives a greater reward than the last.

This hike became a meditation for me. I often find myself clouded with endless thoughts, and getting really in my body allowed me to separate my thoughts from my experience. It reminded me that paying attention to the beautiful details in the environment around you brings you back to the present moment. And we were surrounded by so much beauty to appreciate!

I meant to bring hiking back into my life purely for fitness reasons, but it has already helped me with so much more. It brings a feeling of balance back into my life – physically, mentally and spiritually. I’m looking forward to pushing myself even further next time.