I took my son to Palo Duro this weekend, somewhere I’ve managed to miss despite living here for 15 years now. We did try to go once, it was 107, it sucked. This time was better.
I like hiking because it is a great time to be mindful and simply allow things to be as they are. It’s easy to do this when you are surrounded by beauty. This trip was a great exercise in being mindful as well, but for different reasons.
The first thing that happened when we got there was to find out the park was closed for some hunting. This barred us from the hike we had intended, but there were plenty of others.
It would have been nice for them to put this on their website, which I had checked that morning, but whatever.
The closure forced everyone onto one central hike, which was also okay. I hadn’t intended to be surrounded by people all day, but it was unavoidable. Everything was fine.
It was an odd day to hike. For one thing, the park was super busy, and I wonder if we happened to show up on a day when there was a GroupOn for people with no insight and a lack of basic courtesy.
There were people yelling and having conversations at the top of their lungs. They didn’t give the right of way in basic trail etiquette and mountains bikers blew by without so much as a warning or a nod when you moved for them. Selfies abounded, right in the middle of the trail, without warning. And those stupid little personal speakers were everywhere. I got a crash course in what music is popular right now, and all my hard work to avoid knowing crumbled in a few hours.
I can admit, I was a little stunned at the complete lack of regard for other people, and it gave me plenty of opportunities to get annoyed and angry. And it provides a good example of what mindful acceptance can look like, not that I exemplified it throughout the day.
There are different ways to deal with situations like this.
Mindless anger leaves you steaming or stewing or stabbing. It ruins your day, and you probably become as obnoxious as the people you are annoyed with.
Simple tolerance probably leaves you stewing as well, but it will affect you less. It will lead you to rationalize the behavior of others. You’ll say things about how their parents didn’t raise them right, they don’t understand the etiquette of the outdoors, or at least they are outside at all! You won’t be happy.
A place of mindful acceptance allows you to acknowledge that you aren’t happy with the way people are behaving and that you don’t believe that people should be selfish, but you can also set these aside and realize that they are just stories your mind is telling you. There is nothing inherently wrong with personal speakers in State Parks or not giving someone the right of way on a trail, it’s that I have these stories and expectations of how things are supposed to be. Any suffering I experience in these situations comes from these, rather than the situation itself.
There is even a further step, of embracing the situation exactly as it is, of not wishing it was different in any way. This allows you to enjoy the day, hear a few new songs you like, pet some ill-behaved dogs and take a picture for other people so they don’t fall off a cliff trying to get a perfect panoramic shot by walking backward, looking through the phone.
They might even take a picture of you and your son for you, and you’ll realize he’s getting taller and you’re getting older.
It’s all a choice.
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I write, podcast and make videos about living in freedom through mindfulness, intentionality, compassion, and equanimity.
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