I have been thinking about writing for a long time. My movement from the thinking stage to the doing stage can take a long time as evidenced that I haven't written in 6 months.
Yesterday I had an experience that moved me to share it here.
My partner Marc and I got up early to go hiking because the temperature was predicted to be in the nineties. We wanted to get to Evergreen before it got uncomfortably hot. We arrived just as a trail running race was starting with hundreds of runners on a nearby trail. We could see them beginning in a solid line away from us as we crossed the road to get to our trail. About half way up the mountain the first runner with his placard of 125 on his chest was running up the trail behind us. We realized the trail run included all of them running up and down the trail we were on. After our initial surprise and disgruntledness we were able to take the runners presence in our stride with equanimity and curiosity. We moved over to the right in single file and continued our hike. It was remarkably unobtrusive to have the runners sharing our hiking trail. They were sweaty and determined and I admired them all. We had a sweet sense of camaraderie with each other.
What I was surprised I didn't feel was envy. I was a runner for over 30 years. Several times I hurt my back, took a long or a short break and then the envy of other people running would draw me back to running again myself. I love the euphoric feeling of finishing a run and the efficiency of exercising for a shorter time than walking. I loved thinking of myself as a runner and feeling like part of a fit somewhat fanatic tribe. Each time I stopped running I asked for a sign that it was time to take a break. Usually my back or pelvis went out or one of my knees began to bother me persistently. The last time I stopped running it was only because I was tired of running. Although I had been walking on and off all through my running career, I began to prefer the ease and the pace of walking over running and that made my body smile. I didn't make any proclamations this time about not running anymore as I had in the past. I simply walked and noticed how I felt about running within myself and when I saw other people running by me. I walked on dirt in pretty places and found walking suited my noticing my surroundings and being more present. It wasn't as important to finish as it was to be on my journey. I gave myself permission to run if I wanted to. Once I ran for a few miles for a few days before returning to walking. Most recently I ran for about 10 minutes. It was exhilarating to be able to run and I was very glad when it was over. So glad that I haven't felt moved to quicken my daily walk into a run since. I noticed the other day walking around Cheesman Park that other people were running. I was grateful to be walking. I curiously noted the runners and silently cheered them on with out regret.
I think this is part of graceful aging. Although there are plenty of avid runners my age and even much older, my body wants a slower and more sustainable exercise practice. As I age it has become more and more important to stretch before I exercise also.
Hiking has become a consistent practice and so helpful and satisfying to get out of the city into the mountains with my partner once a week.
That brings me back to our hike and the trail run happening around us. It was a tribute to my gentle letting go process that allowed me to be in the middle of a trail run with self acceptance for my choice to be walking up the mountain and an honoring of the runners choices. That peaceful coexistence was joyful for me.
Although it worked to share the trail with the runners at one point there were a lot of them and we decided to leave the trail and go into the woods to meditate. We were picky about finding our sanctuary. We wanted it to be shady and comfortable and far from the trail. We searched for quite a while til I noticed a deer sitting down in front of some rocks. Marc wanted to meditate near her. I thought she was injured and Marc thought she was just waiting out the run as we were. We sat maybe 50 feet from her for 20 minutes and she let us be there with her. From where I was sitting I was looking into her eyes. I felt a deep sense of communion with her and strong gratitude for her for sharing herself and her space with me. My sense of communicating with her without words was really strong as if our connection across species united us as one. When we were done I felt a deeper sense of inner calm which felt like the gift of her presence now living in my body. Graceful aging also brought me to the slowed down place of being open to hanging out with my deer friend in a way I might have been moving too fast to bother with in the past.
One of my intentions is to be curious and open to my aging process and to surrender to it as my teacher even though it isn't always comfortable.
I really enjoy sharing my journey with you. Thank you for listening.