Be Quiet, and Breathe.

I’m a hiker. And not because I’m a super can’t-NOT-work-out kind of person but because I know exercise is good for me, and hiking is like walking and getting to check out nature while you’re at it. Win win.

If I’m not hiking with a friend, I usually have my ear buds firmly in place and am either blasting music or my latest favorite podcast (This American Life anyone?). A while back, I had the good fortune to be hiking in Telluride Colorado. If you haven’t been there, it’s the cutest little quaint town in a box canyon that hosts SEVERAL festivals all year long. So, although it’s a small town, it was bustling with thousands of people.

Taking the word of a charming local I met, I started up a mountain I was assured would be peaceful and not crowded. I was happily heaving uphill and relishing the fact I’d not seen a soul in the last 45 minutes, when it dawned on me… I had not seen ONE person in almost an hour. I was suddenly EXTREMELY aware of Mother Nature and all that surrounded me. I’m a California girl and I’ve been on hikes where I’ve seen snakes and coyotes but I’m usually near other people when I see these things and, you know, safety in numbers and all that. But I was in Colorado, where there are BEARS. I realized I should take my ear buds out and be on the listen for anything while I was hiking from here on out.

It was extremely quiet. More quiet than I can ever remember experiencing during daylight. At first I was uncomfortable. The silence made my mind louder. I started thinking of all my to-do’s and wondering about my future and quite honestly, I kind of started to panic a little. I stopped for a minute, took some deep breaths (which is no small feat at 10,000 feet above sea level) and started to relax.

“I didn’t get eaten by a bear” selfie

I continued up to the top of the mountain, took my “I didn’t get eaten by a bear” selfie, and headed back to town the way I’d come. By the time I was hiking down the mountain, I’d become used to the silence and felt like it was a friend I was going to miss when I got back into town.

I’ve since begun to meditate. There was (and still sometimes is) a similar experience to my Telluride one, in that my mind wanders and sometimes it’s louder than the silence but when I breathe, it helps. And I’ve come to enjoy my new friend.

This article was previously published on my website. I’m sharing it here today for two reasons. 1. I’ve been mediating every day (ish) for a few years now to guided mediation so I have a voice talking me through the quiet time (ah the irony) but have recently started to meditate with no guidance, just me and the timer, and aaaaaaaallllll the quietness. 2. All that quietness is still taking some getting used to. I remembered this story of one of my first truly peaceful experiences (minus the bear anxiety) and it gave me solace in my new exploration of silent meditation. Naturally, I wanted to pass that story and experience on to anyone who might get something from it.

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