It's amazing what you notice when you're simply paying attention. No talking; just walking, engaging all your senses.
Each frond of the luxuriant big sword fern I just passed seems alert and awake. Tiny mushrooms clumped together on a mossy log beside the trail glow neon orange. I breathe in occasional musky whiffs of decaying trees and plants, breaking down into new soil.
The lush temperate rainforest zings my senses.
Six of us are walking single file along a trail in the Cascade foothills east of Seattle. The lush forest we hike through feels like an interconnected community of life.
After 30 minutes of silent hiking, the clear ring of a bell echos through the forest. I pull out my sit pad and find a spot to settle alongside the trail for sitting meditation. Excited mosquitoes flit around me without landing; I’ve slathered on bug juice to thwart their feasting.
Ten minutes later, the bell rings again. I strap my sit pad back onto my pack and rejoin my place in line.
For the next 30 minutes we continue hiking silently, across a rustic wooden bridge over a coursing stream, through a grove of western red cedars, and up more switchbacks to a wooden bench at the summit. Time for another short sit. In the quiet afternoon, we then retrace our steps back down the mountain.
On a November Tiger Mountain hike, it rained the first two hours we hiked. High up on the mountain we passed through a soft, enveloping mist reminiscent of an ancient Chinese landscape painting. Nobody else was out there.
I prefer the misty, cloudy, rainy days for the quiet on the trail.
Several years ago I started joining Blue Heron Zen Community on their monthly silent meditation hikes, and now I organize and lead the hikes. We go rain or snow or shine, year-round.
Give it a try! I bet you'll be surprised how refreshing it can be.
When You Go
Anyone and everyone are welcome to come along. The hikes can be a few hours to all day, depending on interest, and consist of a half hour of hiking interspersed with 10 minutes of sitting. Talking and laughter before and after the hike are encouraged!
For information about future hikes, go to the Blue Heron Zen Community calendar. If there's not a hike scheduled, check back, there will be soon! We average every other month or more.