Keeping the Pace

Gibraltar Dam Hike

Yesterday, my husband and I went on another hike, our third day in a row of training for our backpacking trip in August.

If you’re interested in specifics, you can find his account of our hike here.

The trail was what most hikers would consider to be “easy,” but for my poor, out-of-shape body, it was a serious exercise in survival.  I even had to break out the trekking poles near the end of the hike because my knee decided to complain a little too loudly.

It was humbling dragging my falling-apart body along next to my husband’s 20-mile-day-hike stamina.  But it was also encouraging and inspiring to have him by my side, helping me keep the pace.

Here’s what I learned today:

  1. Slow and steady wins the race. (An oldie, but a goodie.)
  2. Shin splints require special stretches.  The stretches hurt, but I can actually walk afterwards.
  3. Gu Chews are not as gross as they sound.
  4. Staying hydrated requires more forethought and intention when it’s hotter out.
  5. Hiking is more fun when you hike slowly enough to be able to talk.
  6. I can actually hike three miles uphill without having to stop if my pace is slow enough and my stride short enough.
  7. My husband is a brilliant and deep thinker. (Another oldie, but I like being reminded.)
  8. Bear poop is called scat.
  9. Steep trails are easier to hike at lower elevations.
  10. If you hike with your mouth open, you might  eat a bug.

As we plodded along the wide, dusty trail (okay, I plodded. My husband strolled.), I started thinking again about Much-Afraid and her journey into the High Places to meet the Good Shepherd on the Mountain of Spices.  I thought about how her feet were crippled and how the Good Shepherd sent her with two companions — Sorrow and Suffering — to support her (physically and emotionally) all the way to their destination.

(I know, I think about Hinds Feet on High Places a lot.)

Being in the back country of Santa Barbara with my husband, I realized our hike was a lot like the past few years of my spiritual journey:

  1. I had to walk my path myself — no one could do the hard work for me.
  2. I had a destination, but I couldn’t see it when we started and didn’t know what would be required of me before I got there.
  3. The way laid out for me may not have been the hardest way ever, but I found it challenging.
  4. I walked with someone who had been there before, knew the way, and had resources I didn’t.
  5. I did a good job keeping the pace for a while, but after our turn-around point, I got tired and lagged behind or rushed and hurried ahead.

Keeping the pace is one of the hardest tasks for me.  It requires all my effort and concentration to live in the middle and stay balanced.  I need support and encouragement (and gentle reminders) all along the way, or I revert back to my default mode of rush-lag-rush-lag.

With my spiritual walk, it was my spiritual director who knew the way, who had resources I didn’t, who could see the path in a way I couldn’t, who supported, encouraged, and reminded me to slow-down-but-not-stop, to choose a pace and stride that would sustain me through the whole journey.

With our hike today, it was my husband who knew the way, who had sunscreen and hiking food and extra water, who pointed out the garter snake I nearly stepped on and predicted the elevation gain.

Whether our hikes are physical or spiritual, we benefit from having a companion to walk beside us, share the journey, and continually remind us to keep the pace.

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About Laura K. Cavanaugh

I'm a writer, spiritual director, and advocate of holistic body theology.

Posted on June 13, 2012, in Physicality, Spirituality and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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