Hiking With My Son ~ A Mindfulness Practice

Posted by on Nov 22, 2014

Hiking With My Son ~ A Mindfulness Practice

It’s one hundred degrees in town and the ninety-degree temperature at my house in the mountains feels almost cool in comparison. I decide it’s a perfect day to take my 2-year old son Xavier for a hike.   I know the spot well; a flat trail with spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains in the state park just a few miles away.  As soon as we hit the trail he starts running. Fast. I know what’s coming next and cringe. He falls. It seems to hurt me more than it does him. He jumps up and keeps running. He trips again, this time a full-face plant. I rush over to him, and then back off as he pops back up, mouth covered in dirt.

We continue this way, stopping occasionally to look at the passing butterflies and chipmunks, until he pauses to curiously look at the incline on the side of the trail. “Be careful!” I say, not wanting him to slide between the jagged rocks and branches. To my surprise he doesn’t try to run down the incline. Instead, he picks up a handful of dirt and gleefully throws it, watching it sputter and fall until it’s still. Then he picks up another handful.

I notice my impulse tight in my chest, throat, and jaw. I want to tell him to stop. I try to think of a skillful way, something other than “Stop throwing dirt!” But I’m stopped by the pure look of joy on his face. I take the opportunity to slow down, breathe, and become curious. There’s no one in sight. He’s not hurting anyone. Why do I want to criticize his behavior? Why is it that I want him to stop throwing dirt?

My mind chimes in with all kinds of reasons:

  • His hands are getting dirty and he’ll put them in his mouth.
  • It’s not ok to throw it at the park, and if I let him do it here, he’ll think it’s ok to throw it there.
  • What if someone comes and sees him throwing dirt? Worse, if he throws it at them?
  • We should keep moving- we’re on a hike.
  • It will be impossible to get him to stop.
  • It’s not ok to throw things.

The last one in particular catches my attention. “It’s not ok to throw things.” In this moment, I know that’s simply not true. I dig a little deeper and I hear, “When he throws things you have no control.” I can rest into that uncomfortable truth. I haven’t had any control since we started the hike and he took off running.  I admit to myself that there’s a part of me that wants to hold him firmly by the hand so I can keep him safe, moving slowly, and not throwing dirt! I also know he’ll never go for it. He’s 2 and enjoying his new found independence.

So, I sit down in the middle of the trail watching my son happily throw handfuls of dirt, and allow my fear of being out of control. I know my fear is irrational, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s there, and that my mind and body are tense. I start to practice mindfulness.

I watch the aspen trees gently rustle in the wind and the clouds swiftly pass through the blue sky. The air is clean and sweet with the smell of wildflowers. I notice how good it feels to connect with the Earth, and I start to appreciate the fact that I’m sitting in the middle of the trail, something I normally would never have done. I feel my jaw relax as I exhale, and silently, I thank my son for the gift of becoming present.

After a few minutes, Xavier stops throwing dirt and looks at me. To my surprise, he walks over, sits down behind me and hugs me around the waist. I feel an incredible surge of love. “Thank you for the hug,” I say. He giggles.

My mind takes over, once again pulling me out of the present moment. Only this time, instead of wanting to criticize and control, it wants to praise. “See,” I hear myself saying:

  • This being present stuff works!
  • Way to not engage in a power struggle over nothing!
  • He’s done throwing dirt and nothing bad happened!

I’m so seduced by my own thoughts that I miss the subtlety of my son’s communication. He giggles again, this time louder, and I’m brought back to the present moment abruptly as he pours a handful of dirt on top of my head. I feel a rush of shock and annoyance, and then, I have to laugh as he starts to run down the trail, giggling all the way. I stand up, shaking the dirt out of my hair. “Now, be in this moment,” I remind myself, and I shout, “Wait for me!”


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