Life Lessons From a Mountain

6 Things Hiking Can Teach You

November 26, 2013

I’ve been in Japan for three months now and in that time I’ve climbed a lot of mountains. It started off innocently enough- a day trip here, some solo adventures there. Then, I got the opportunity to climb Mt. Fuji and something transformative happened. At 12,000 ft., either due to hypoxia or divine intervention, a few realizations hit me pretty clearly.

Climb a tough mountain and you’ll see for yourself.

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1. Be Present

One of the ultimate principles of Zen Buddhism, the concept of presence of mind may sound abstract to anyone unfamiliar with this religion. The basic premise is actually quite simple: you can’t truly experience a place if your mind is somewhere else. When you start hiking, you might be thinking of things you’ve recently experienced in the past or possibly having visions of the future and making it to the top. Don’t let your mind take you away from your present self otherwise you might wind up halfway up the mountain not having remembered how you got there in the first place.

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2. One Step at a Time

 Hiking is challenging. As you become tired and look up at the top, it sometimes seems as if you will never get there. The end of a hike, when there are only a few feet left to go and the end is in sight, is never the most challenging point. It’s the beginning and the middle that feel most daunting. The only way out is to simply keep walking.

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3. Take Real Breaths

 I mean deep breaths. Real deep breaths. In through your nose and out through your mouth, feeling your diaphragm expand in the process. This is important to keep in mind during trying times when facing altitude sickness, as well as the trying times in life.

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4. Person-to-Mountain Ratio

The mountain you are climbing is way bigger than you are. Think of your small size in comparison as a metaphor for the small problems you run into in everyday life. There are bigger things out there worthy of tackling, so best to focus on those instead.

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5. Choose Your Company Wisely

The last thing I want to hear when surrounded by nature is someone complaining or whining about  lesson #2. Surround yourself with positive people who will help you get to the top.

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6. Climb The Mountain

For all of the fancy gear, specified diets, training techniques and mental preparation that can be done before climbing, there is something to be said for just doing it. I know someone who hiked Mt. Fuji in docksiders because those are the only shoes that person had. Foolish? Yeah, maybe. But the point is, if you want it, go and do it. You will never regret it afterwards.

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