I had a great run in the woods today. For nearly an hour I immersed myself in the verdant landscape, hopping roots, hurdling logs, and picking my lines. It was refreshing to feel the soft forest floor under my feet instead of the uncompromising, asphalt road. I soaked in the quiet solitude of the ever hospitable woods.
My mind goes to an interesting place during trail running. I have to remain much more alert to navigate the continual terrain changes. To some, this may seem onerous. "Don't you just want to zone out?" they say. I concede that I actually prefer the trail to the road because of the mental engagement it requires. My mind doesn't have much time to wander or fixate on minor aches and twinges. For me running often serves as meditative exercise. As a novice yoga practitioner, I learned that meditation--contrary to popular belief--is not a passive activity. It demands engagement. And it works best for me when I get my mind (stay present) and body (keep form and effort in balance) in sync. Interestingly, trail running and yoga are the only activities that have enabled me to tap into this.
On a really good long run through the woods, I wind down deeper and deeper into... into what, I don't know... the mind? the psyche? the being? Call it what you will. My consciousness continues to settle until I reach a place that I'm not typically able to access. It's like going to a secret garden (an apt metaphor for someone who loves gardening) buried in the heart of the forest. It's a remote location that requiring hours of travel. Once there, cool things begin to happen. It's not like someone sprinkles fairy dust over me, or I see fairies flitting among the trees. What happens is very subtle. It's a new observation, clarity to a situation, a feeling of timelessness, or achieving a state of peace. Whatever ensues, it's always a special experience.
I feel like I have been away from my secret garden for a long time. Two years, too long. It's good to be back, and you can be sure I'll be visiting more frequently now. For nothing lures me back to the trail head like the sweet scent of the woods in summer, and the opportunity to explore new places in the mind.