Zen and the Art of Mindful Hiking

giphyI’m not going to lie and say the past four months since my return to Adelaide have been super eezy breezy… Nor will I lay and say they’ve been terrible. They’ve just sort of happened, flown past at the speed of time-spent-busy.

Without the opportunity of a quick jaunt to Belgium or Estonia, a party in a Prague ruin-pub or an art exhibition of Dutch masters held in a Berlin basement, it can seem like the Electric Holy Road has been somewhat closed off. The vibrant Electricity of travel and excitement seems hidden when you’re finishing uni, applying for jobs and living back in your home town. But it is there. I’ve seen glimpses of it. It’s only a matter of reaching out and grabbing it with your high-voltage gloves on.

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Time Flies When You’re on the Run

It’s been four whole months since I landed safely in Adelaide. Four MONTHS. It really feels (and this is something I think any traveller can relate to) as if it’s just been four weeks.

By this time in my European adventure I was preparing for my last assignments and planning my final, big trips, in anxious preparation for my return flight.

It’s hardly like it’s flown by with nothing to show for it, though. In that time I’ve worked through my first paid writing project, written more than I’ve ever done before, made wonderful friends, become a professional freelancer and even planned trips for the future. I’ve moved forward in great leaps and bounds… Something I need to remind myself fairly often!

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Stop to Smell the Bottlebrush and Burnt Gum

Though I’ve been running at high-speed towards the future, I’ve also become increasingly conscious of my levels of mindfulness and association. I’ve lost myself quite a bit these past months, slipping in and out of the real world and into the planes of worry, over-planning and the digital. It’s all too easy to lose yourself in your computer if your career and future depends on it.

To get back in touch, I’ve been taking a few mindful excursion out and around South Australia. Driving out into the country, to Victor Harbour, to Kalgoorlie, to Chain of Ponds, really reminds me of my place among the gum trees. To travel, to be constantly on the move with only your guts and hands on the wheel, is one of the most centering activities anyone can undertake.

The trip I wanted to tell you all about today, dear listeners, is a small day out to the popular Waterfall Gully walking trail.

This is a path frequented by fitness-obsessed Adelaidians to the point where it is very rare to not bump into anyone wearing fluorescent activewear at some point or another. In fact, scenic hikers and rugged bushwalkers are an endangered breed on this track. A real shame, considering it’s a walk through one of the most beautiful parks in South Australia and I’d hate to use it as a glorified treadmill.

A quote from Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance comes back to me. It goes something like “if you’re rushing through something it means you’re not enjoying it anymore.” Basically, it’s a fancy way of saying “stop and smell the roses”, or take time to appreciate the world around you.

Of course, that’s not to say that running means you’re rushing, just that I think I’d much rather leave the gym to the gym and appreciate the great green hills for the great green hills.

On the Waterfall Gully track, I walked for hours, definitely a lot longer than the recommended trail time, simply because I was mesmerised by the natural beauty around me. Tall gums hung with drooping ferns and vines, cascading silver waterfalls and an incredible view over the city.

The track begins with a gorgeous, almost European, lake fed by the pure stream of a glittering waterfall. It ascends, steeply at first, to a seemingly undisturbed world that is half rain-forest, half temperate wood. Along the way, you can spot the ruins of hundred year old cabins and get an idea of what colonial life would have been like. The last half of the trail takes you amongst giants of dark timber and deep green, before dropping you at the perfect selfie spot at the top of Mount Lofty. If you’re around the place, it’s definitely worth the walk.

The photos in this post can’t do it justice, but maybe they can give you some idea.

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This walk quickly became a symbolic one as my mind began to fire and swirl. I couldn’t help comparing the grueling charge up steep banks to the walk through life. I realised, high above my woes and petty worries (and even internet signal) that I had been climbing not just a gorgeous green mountain, but my own blues.

I was pushing myself, slowly but surely, towards both Mount Lofty summit and my own tiny piece of enlightenment and, you know what, I was enjoying the challenge.

By stopping every now and then to breathe, take a sip of water and rearrange my sweaty shirt, I was appreciating the effort it took to reach such a beautiful place.

And, here’s the thing… I didn’t even reach the summit that time. I was just too sweaty, too unprepared, too dressed up in my stuffy uni clothes. But that’s fine. It just gives me another chance to enjoy the trip. And I know each time I take it I’ll go a little bit harder and a little bit higher until, some day soon, I’ll reach the top in no time at all.

So, I guess that’s the moral of the story isn’t it? The journey might be long and tough, escaping the blues is never easy, but there can be a lot of beauty along the way if you take it slowly, mindfully and enjoy the walk.


Be sure to follow formamachina, my new creative Instagram page,
for all your aesthetic needs!

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