Mindful Path in the Woods

A few days ago I went on a hike with a good friend and colleague.

We went to Indian Peaks Wilderness, a magnificent area of majestic mountains, crystal blue lakes and endless wild flowers.  I always get into “the zone” when I’m hiking there. I feel so fortunate to have such beauty so close to home.

As we neared our destination—a lake at the top of the mountain—we had to cross a stream.  There were two logs placed closely together that acted as a “bridge” over the rushing water.

As we approached the crossing, there was a couple standing on the logs, preventing us and the others standing beside us from passing.  The woman was slowly and methodically putting a camera into her partner’s backpack.

In a New York moment, my irritation with the couple caused an adrenaline rush. “Can’t they do this NEXT to the log?” “Can’t they see that there are other people who want to pass them?” “Why do they have to be so inconsiderate?” I wondered. My thoughts were fueling my growing impatience.

And then it happened.

A mindful moment.

I reminded myself that I was in one of my favorite locations, hiking with a dear friend, breathing the clean, crisp air, soaking in the unparalleled beauty.

What was the rush?  We had no goal.  There was no deadline.  I was having road rage in the wilderness!

Not okay.

So, I told myself to take a deep breath, relax, that it didn’t matter if we got to the lake 60 seconds later than planned.  I even entertained the possibility that the couple wasn’t intentionally being insensitive, they were simply repacking their gear.

I was back in the zone.

As I passed, they said, “Sorry,” and I replied. “No problem.” And that, after my attitude adjustment, was the truth.

As we walked further towards the lake, I thought about the fact that, although we have no choice about the seemingly random way emotions tend to arise, we certainly have a choice about what we do with them.

Once we step back a bit, we can reflect on our reactions and decide how we want to think about what has happened and how we would like to respond.

We have choice.

Similarly, we have endless options when we feel triggered by our spouses.  Although we often believe that our actions are dictated by our spouse’s behavior, it simply isn’t true.

One time, many, many years ago, as my husband Jim was leaving our home for work, he stormed out in an unkind way.  My first reaction was to call him on his cell phone and give him a piece of my mind.

But then, a mindful moment.

Instead, I told myself that his curtness with me was probably due to the fact that he felt stressed from work.  So rather than engage in vengeful behavior—my first plan—I decided to order a bouquet of flowers and send them to him at work with a card that read, “I hope you are feeling better.  Have a nice day.”  Upon receiving the flowers, he called and expressed his gratitude.