Lessons from the mountain

Kinder Scout – The Peak District National Park, UK

In May this year I went on a solo road trip leaving home and all that anchors me into the responsibility side of life behind. I decided to experiment, as I had been feeling cooped up and stuck for some time, like so many during the last year.

I find after a time of still-standing not only I need to move physically, I also need to explore and rediscover myself psychologically and spiritually, otherwise I begin to feel weighed down by life. I need a change and a challenge.

The trip turned out to be very insightful, for which I am very grateful, as it fulfilled my desire for diving deeper into understanding some of the things I had been going through internally for many yearly cycles now. It was important for me to see if this time I could attempt to break those cycles again and unleash myself from being stuck in a place that became emptied of a sense of personal freedom and joy.

One of the main things I found out was that I liked being ‘by myself’, but not ‘with myself’. Two different things. It exposed a side to self-exploration that sometimes can become toxic and overbearing. I suspected this might have been the case for many years and consciously moved away from inner work during certain points and when it started to impact on everything negatively. Yes, that can happen. Too much of one thing at the wrong time can have the opposite effect to what one might be wanting to do. It got me thinking in terms of long-term healing and short-term solution/action-based types of personal therapy, as my point of reference. Is a long-term exploration good for us, or is it better undertaken in manageable/digestible chunks? I suspect the later is true, for me anyway.

So, I wanted to define for myself the difference between being ‘by yourself’ and being ‘with yourself’? Those two differ, and here is my definition and understanding of each.

Being ‘by yourself’ means being solitary, in solitude. It is not being lonely, isolated, or abandoned. I really enjoy being by myself; being quiet and alone in a way that nothing and no one can interfere or interrupt my chosen flow and I am in control of what happens in each moment. It is being removed from burdens and responsibilities of day-to-day life. This type of solitude is intentional and conscious. To me it is something I can not be without. It is the ultimate manifestation of my personal freedom, which I value above all.

Being ‘with yourself’ means being aware of your internal processes and for me that is not necessarily good all the time especially when I choose to be by myself. One can be deeply unconscious and one is chosen. When that happens a conflict can arise. Being ‘with yourself’ can involve thoughts going round and round and you are able to hear them, engage with, act upon, or become overwhelmed. It can be feeling more, as there is no external noise or distractions that require your attention. Overall, it means you are more present with yourself and everything that you carry within you. This is something that I find difficult, as my mind becomes very loud and my thoughts can take me places I do not want to go especially when I am being consciously and wanting to be ‘by myself’. My purpose of choosing to be by myself is, in fact, the opposite. I do it to quieten everything to a soft pace or at the very least gain clarity. Having said that this only relates to my ‘head’, my thinking. I would never aim to quieten my feelings and instincts. Those, to me, are the essence of being and mechanisms that keep me in touch with myself in a positive, useful way, not disruptive and overwhelming. Those ‘feeling’ functions of myself are my creativity, my soothing tools and something that makes me flourish be it bringing ideas into being or directing me towards where I need to go. I tell you intuition in the mountains, I called it ‘follow your nose and gut’, is a very useful tool. Something I experimented with, as I use intuition in all areas of my life.

What I realised again is that the way for me not to be with myself in a negative way I need to do something. There is a time and a place for ‘being with myself’, I found, and it really does depend on what I do with my time ‘being by myself’ whether ‘being with myself’ would impact me negatively.

In this case my trip was planned and intentional and hiking is an activity that always works for the benefit of my mind. For that to work I do need a plan, a route, in this case, a goal, a destination, some focus that benefits my physical, mental, and spiritual selves. It has to be something physical, something that will use your body. When I walk, I am aware of just walking, taking in the scenery and being aware of my feet making progress reflected in the distance I have done around me and on the map route. There is something reassuring about putting one foot in front of the other and the metaphor for getting through something really comes alive in this activity. If thoughts come in on a hike, they are easier to discern, i.e. not getting tangled up, they are less threatening or deep somehow. I find they clarify and disperse quicker and answers come more naturally.

I thought many might relate to this hiking/thinking pattern scenario and seeking relief in nature, as well as, looking at healing from your own perspective and what works for you as an individual. These days I am into analysing less and being more. One of the way to bring that into being is for me to write blogs again rather than processing things using my journal, which has become one of those suffocating tools that can really take me places I never intended to go. Something to do with concise nature and being in the present/external rather than internal, which links back again to a long-term/short-term way of healing.

I hope you found this interesting and might relate to some of the things I discuss.

My book Intuitive Magic Practice discusses the subject of intuition in life in general and in a spiritual practice, if you wish to delve further into it.

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