Hiking is Healing

Lion’s Head Isthmus Trail - Catalina Island // January 27, 2019

Lion’s Head Isthmus Trail - Catalina Island // January 27, 2019

In June 1991, Mt. Pinatubo erupted. From the eruption, I became an evacuee who was fortunately brought to asylum in the United States as a refugee thanks to a humanitarian visa + the US Military.

Life kept bouncing me into situations year after year that turned me into a survivor. Some of these situations, I could not bare to carry the burden of the memory — and so I locked the memories away in figurative boxes, never to open up again — pretending they never happened. And I made this work for me for most of my teenhood into adulthood. My coping mechanisms manifested as anxiety and neuroses which were disguised as overachievement and ambition. Medallions of success and accolades of validation became gloriously deceptive pain relievers.

That’s the thing about pain relievers — they provide relief from painful symptoms but they do not HEAL the injury. True healing comes from remedying the source ailment and treating it with time + patience + allowing the body to regenerate its own healthy cells with the restorative aid of natural resources.

Back to the boxes — they got heavier and heavier and I couldn’t carry them anymore. The weight became so overbearing that I would crack and snap at any additional stressor from work, my relationship, my family, my bills, my responsibilities. I would fall apart at very normal, simple challenges and transitions. I didn’t want to live like this anymore. So I started unpacking the boxes.

I survived a volcanic eruption. I survived domestic violence. I survived abuse. I survived gun violence. I survived divorce. I survived toxic bullying. I survived an adolescence without father figures because they were both fighting in a war in the middle east. I survived parental alcoholism. I survived sexual assault. I survived attempted suicide. 

All while processing my bisexual identity in and out of heterosexual relationships.

Unpacking the boxes lightens the load I carry. So now, I’m learning to explore and discover the new spaces within myself that are now free to find me, to meet me, to love me, and to empower me. 

Through hiking I am:

  • Exploring my relationship with risk

  • Navigating my relationship with pain

  • Discovering my relationship with strength

  • Traversing my relationship with trust

I practice yoga regularly to cultivate a union between my mind + body + breath (breath = life source = spirit). Hiking allows me to practice yoga off the mat and into the world.

I cannot get rid of / erase my trauma. What I can do is understand and manage my relationship with it. Outdoor activities like hiking and camping allow me to experience the land with all of my able-bodied senses and how each of my senses interact with the natural world around me. The core of who I am and where I am are rawest in nature because I have to dig up what my inner-most basic needs are combined with faith and trust of where I am going. If I am practicing hiking as a regular part of my life, then nutrients of it shows up in every other aspect of my lifestyle:

  • remaining focused

  • being present

  • trusting my instincts

  • making a choice and committing to it

  • increasing awareness

  • breathing through difficulties

  • moving forward

  • taking one step at a time

  • forging my path

  • when to be a leader and when to be a follower

  • listening to my body

  • meeting my appropriate edge

  • shifting my perspective

It’s looking at surroundings from a different point of view — either upside down in Downward Dog or taking in the panoramic scenery from the top of a mountain. The mind controls the body. And so, healing involves shifting my perspective.

I’m learning what it means to HEAL myself and not just relieve my pain. 

If nature can carve beauty into a cliff’s edge through years of torrential storms, erosion from tumultuous seas, traumatic tectonic shifts,  then nature can do that with me, too.