The Swinging, Spiraling, and Stillness of Spirit

**This post is written by Team SeeStar’s trailmate, Spirit.**

We create our reality. Within this world there exists an infinite amount of sounds, smells, sights, feelings, and energies and an infinite amount of ways to interpret and respond.  The reality in which we live depends on what we’re attracted to and what we’re open to experiencing.

In our first 2 weeks on the Appalachian Trail I have been overwhelmed (in the most positive way) by all of the different layers of existence to explore.  Each day as I walk I wonder what to focus my attention on.  Do I feel my body as it moves – explore how all muscles, bones, joints, and fluids work in harmony as I walk across jagged rocks, slippery streams, and up and down steep hills? Do I marvel at the intricacies of my feet and how they absorb information from the earth and send signals to the rest of my body to help me stay in balance? What about listening to the ever changing rhythm of my breath and acknowledging the exchange that constantly occurs between my inhale and the exhale of the wilderness surrounding me?

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Oh! but the birdsong is so beautiful as well, especially the way in which the melodies weave in and out with the rustling of the leaves and flowing of the streams.  But, but, there’s so much to see too! I could count the number of millipedes that inch along the trail, seek out plants to identify and forage, observe the elegance of the sunlight and shadows, or lift my gaze and gawk at the soft blue sky (I should probably stop walking while doing this one unless I want to faceplant and marvel at the smell of the dirt). Hmmm…maybe a more appropriate name for me would be Sloth?

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Unfortunately, this sloth was not actually found along the AT.

My constant awe and curiosity has thus far deepened my connection and understanding with Mother Nature, but also often leaves me in the dust of most of my trailmates. Within 1 hour of hiking, my crew has cruised 2-3 miles, while I’ve made it about 10 steps…mesmerized and lost in the beauty and mystery of this Earth. Luckily our new trailmate, Spooner, has the same amount of enthusiasm, if not more, for foraging and taking moments of stillness and silence to absorb all that is present in the moment.

We gleefully stumbled upon a "jack-in-the-pulpit".

We gleefully stumbled upon a “jack-in-the-pulpit”.

Although Spooner is an Ultralight backpacker, he ended up buying 3 or 4 books on plants + we gave him 20 lbs of food to carry!

Although Spooner is an Ultralight backpacker, he ended up buying 3 or 4 books on plants + we gave him 20 lbs of food to carry!

It has been wonderful to feel so captivated by nature and share my passions with another hiker for my first few weeks along the trial.  However, we both realized that if we continue at a millipede’s pace,  we’re not going to make it too far.  So then I need to ask myself, is that okay? What are my intentions for this hike?

My Intentions (in no particular order):

1. Work with my inner shadows.

2. Learn to trust myself.

3. Uncover all of the creativity, wildness, playfulness, power, and fearlessness that lies within me – but has been dampened or dormant for too long.

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4. Deepen my relationship with my cousin, Saffron, and StarTrek, as well as make meaningful connections with other hikers.

My lovely mates

5. Learn as much as I can about foraging and share my experience with other hikers.

Squawroot also known as 'bearcorn' makes up about 40% of a bear's diet in the Shenandoahs.  Unfortunately, I didn't think it tasted so good...

Squawroot also known as ‘bearcorn’ makes up about 40% of a bear’s diet in the Shenandoahs. Unfortunately, I didn’t think it tasted so good…

At first we thought this was a gooseberry, but turns out it's some kind of growth...and also doesn't taste very good.

At first we thought this was a gooseberry, but turns out it’s some kind of growth…and also doesn’t taste very good.

6. Navigate the synchronicities that occur along the way.

7. Begin to practice a self-sustaining and modest lifestyle.

8. Remember to see abundance and cultivate gratitude in any situation.

We were able to find a yellow and pink lady slipper.  A very special occurrence because the flowers take 10 years to bloom!

We were able to find a yellow and pink lady slipper. A very special occurrence because the flowers take 10 years to bloom!

9. Keep a constant spiritual practice daily (yoga and meditation).

10. Thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.

Now, my responsibility is to keep all of these intentions alive and thriving….and also support my trailmates and their intentions.  How can this be done?

Before leaving for the Appalachian Trail Saffron, StarTrek, and I decided that we were going to all practice being selfish.  We realized that we often try to make others around us happy by compromising our own needs, opinions, and desires.  On the surface this seems to work out okay, but often leads to frustration, repression, passive-agressive…ness, indecisiveness, pitty parties, and bitchiness. Revelation! If we all take responsibility in voicing our needs and desires with clarity and confidence, then there will be less confusion, stronger communication, and amazing growth! This has spurred the practice of our nightly ritual: Celebration, Frustration, Revelation, Gyration.  We all go around sharing our joys, difficulties and insights we had during the day + a random silly movement just for fun. So far this ritual has helped us stay connected to ourselves and each other and keep any hard feelings from festering inside and building up.

It can be difficult to navigate between self-care and helping others, while reflecting on this one day, I remembered advice a friend had given me recently. She wisely said that in order to give to others, you yourself need to be overflowing (with wellbeing, energy, etc.). When the giver is not overflowing and tries to give, they are actually depleting and weakening themselves.  But if the giver maintains a lifestyle that keeps her fulfilled, energized, nurtured and happy, her energy will gracefully overflow and affect those around her with ease. I can keep gathering water from a waterfall as long as it is being continuing replenished, but I can only take from a pond or lake for so long, before it dries out.

So, how can a group of hikers maintain a strong bond and finish a thru-hike on good terms? By constantly reflecting on our intentions, voicing our wants and needs, and taking time everyday for self-care. I replenish myself through yoga, meditation, spending some time each day to hike solo, foraging, singing, talking to nature, making people laugh, painting, and lingering in places that speak to us…

I've often been drawn to linger in places with boulders and climb them too!

I’ve often been drawn to linger in places with boulders and climb them too!

We also need to be open to constant challenges, every day or even every moment. On our biggest day so far, 17.4 miles, I experienced the exhilaration of hiking quickly.  On this day I didn’t stop to look at one rock, butterfly, flower, or millipede.  I was simply focusing on my breath, my body, and living in the moment with each new step.  I think this hike was possibly the most difficult physical challenge I have completed so far in my life – so the task needed all my energy and focus.  Usually I consider myself a soft soul; calm, quiet, nurturing, identifying with water and earth.  But on this day, I felt the fire and it felt amazing! Even though I was so exhausted at times, suddenly a swell of energy and strength would flow through me and at times I felt as if I was being guided or carried up the mountain by a greater force, like a marionette attached to the sky.

On the trail it’s easy to lose sight of time; the date, day of the week, and hour no longer seem relevant. We’re simply swinging, swirling, and spiraling along.

In our lives we spiral. We learn the same lessons again and again, and again. But we never come back to exactly the same place. Each time we return to our lesson, we stand in a place with a slightly new perspective, more experience, and deeper wisdom.

I’m so grateful for this experience so far and can’t wait one more moment to get back on the trail!!!

~Spirit~

P.S. I’ll share more on foraging and what’s actually edible and tastes good soon…

Also, don’t forget to check out Saffron’s awesome post!

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Comments 7

  • Avatar
    Adam Logan : May 19th

    What a lovely trail name, Spirit. I can imagine that yoga would become a necessity on the trail. Especially for the calves yow! Loving your intentions for this journey, and the quote about giving is a true gem of insight, thanks for sharing. May the shadows of your spirit soften with your attention and love. I’m glad for you, seems like you have wonderful and jovial company. Sending my energy and loving energy your way, may your spirit continue to grow and overflow :).

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Spirit : May 24th

      Adam, what a beautiful comment to share! I think of you often on the trail and how you would be a good traveling partner, your curiosity and awe of life is contagious! However, I think the two of us together would be super sloths looking at every little bug, flower, and twig 🙂 I hope you’re journey has been fulfilling…or are you still in Oregon :)?

      With love,
      Spirit

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Ruth Matilsky : May 20th

    I’ve been enjoying the posts — Hearing the thought processes that went into the planning, reading about the realities of being on the trail — to walk fast or slow, to be up front about what you need — to figure out ways to get along. Today’s post reminds me to enjoy the process of my own daily life as well as preparing for Terry’s and my upcomoing adventures with our trailer. Love to you all. Ruth Matilsky (friend of Kyler’s family)

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Spirit : May 24th

      Thank you, Ruth! I’m happy that you’ve been able to relate our experiences and lessons to your own life; there is so much to explore and constant adaptation. Adventures in a trailer, sounds amazing! Enjoy your journey 🙂

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Adham : May 21st

    So touching ! I enjoyed reading the whole thing. Loved how you described the connection between you and earth ! Made me wanna think more of myself when I go for walks outside in the nature. Have fun and enjoy every single moment. Sending you love and great positive energy <3

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Spirit : May 24th

      Shokran, Boo. I’m happy it’s inspiring your own connection with nature and I feel that energy you send everyday!

      Nhebek Helba,

      Reply
  • Avatar
    What-If : May 24th

    I’m all about the foraging. My sister calls me a goat because I walk out into the yard and eat random weeds. I’m looking forward to learning from your experiences.

    Reply

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