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Never has getting outside been a more conscious, deliberate activity. But when you get out, where goes your brain?

ins outsideAssuming you’re alone, do you focus on emptying your mind and being ‘present?’ Or, do you let your mind flit restlessly from topic to topic, like a bushtit from branch to branch? Or, are you a student of the wilderness, treating a hike like a laboratory learning session?

Mindfulness and meditation are all the rage.  The smart phone app, Headspace, has more than a million subscribers and offers them scads of guided meditation sessions. Of course, you can take it with you into the back country. What’s more, research seems to quantify the benefits of calming and emptying the mind.

But I’m also a fan of Zen’s psychological foils: train of thought and stream of consciousness.IMG_1912

Whilst sitting at a desk, the writer’ mind is laboriously pedaling forward, hell bent to the task. On a hike, that same mind gets to coast, pedal backwards, and play with the footholds. The best article leads, epiphanies, leaps of connection, and rewrites come to me during a hike, not while sitting purposefully at the desk. I have confidence that this dwell time will yield results, if I come to it without purpose and just let the mind do its thing.

Which brings us back to research.

I heard this week that video games may soon be prescribed for kids with Attention Deficit, since research is supporting the notion that the screen time can gain their focus and calm the kids’ harried brains. Gawd. Why can’t doctors write prescriptions for hiking boots and binoculars? I’m betting kids couldn’t help but benefit from their own, more organic form of dwell time. And if they get dirty, tired, and sore in the process? All the better.

Your thoughts are always welcome.