On a hike through the mountains this past week, just before the mushrooms altered our bodies and spirits, we walked with a determined pace. Determined to reach no goal in particular, but pushing off of the ground with force, extending our legs to their full reach, and lifting the next boot just as the other was planting. Our racing thoughts within our sober minds drove our feet quickly along our route to nowhere, pushing us rapidly towards an ambiguous finish line. A constant compulsion forced us to continuously and fervently move forward. I mean, we were on a hike after all.
The most undesirable side effect of sobriety is impatience. Our sober selves are always racing off to achieve the next goal, the next self-improvement, and the next finish line. Shit, most of us are already plotting our next scheme before we’re even finished with our current one. We’re lifting one boot off of the ground before the other has even been planted. I used to believe that this restlessness and discontentment is in our nature. But, when I think about it, we’re reminded everyday about the rush. “Life moves fast,” they say. “One day you’ll blink and you’ll be 50,” they tell me. It’s no wonder why we all have an urge to keep moving, see all we can, and walk with that determined pace to ensure that we make it far along the path of life. Why would anyone want to linger around the starting line?
It hit me first. The group trudged on ahead, marching towards everything and nothing with that irritating sober reminder that we must have a purpose, a mission, an aim, a goal. The sensation reached my body before my mind. My blood seemed to thicken in my extremities. I fell far behind, dragging my weighted legs with each step. I stumbled along, with my brain’s automatic transmission of balance busted, I was forced to maintain my equilibrium manually and with great effort. I needed to sit down. I was overcome with that spinning, nauseous, self-loathing feeling. It was a sickness that was partially caused by an illness of the stomach. I poisoned myself by eating inedible, psychedelic mushrooms that were born on a wet and steaming pie of cow shit. However, I also attributed that nausea to an illness of the mind. I was ill because of that familiar dark voice, which whispers in each of my waking thoughts, and sometimes shouts in my dreams.
I called to the group that I needed to rest. We plunged ourselves into a deep bed of moss that became a more vivid green with each passing minute. There I was, surrounded with good friends and good vibes, but so like myself I was lost in another world, alone. I struggled with that dark voice, eyes closed, arguing internally. The voice reminded me of my flaws, my insecurities, my greatest fears, and it heckled me for what I’d done to myself. In a moment of strong will, I forced my eyes open, taking in the scene around me for the first time. A total calm, a warm serenity, and a mountain breeze entered through my skin, as the drug entered my mind. I let the darkness, the negativity, and the fear run down into my right palm. I held it there. I let the calmness, the positivity, and the pure moment run down into my left palm. Then I clapped my hands tightly together in front of my chest, fingertips pointing at the canopy. In my palms was the balance of good and evil, peace and turmoil, love and fear. My balance had returned to me. Namaste.
I lifted myself from the bed of moss, now feeling surefooted. A unique type of calm overcame me in those moments, and would remain with me for the rest of my experience. I let go of where I was going, and instead began paying close attention to where I was in each moment. The pace of the group slowed. Our footsteps were rid of purpose, and our minds no longer needed a finish line. This slow and melodic peace would last for the next six hours; our hike would not take us another kilometre farther. We were blissful at the starting line. Completely rid of impatience, we were content in stopping anywhere. We realized that walking faster may allow us to see more, but we would understand less. The moments would slide by us, and the opportunities to grow and bond would be ignored for fear of delaying our course. So we proceeded slowly, and indulged each other’s desires to explore things deeply and appreciate what we would usually deem insignificant. We would lie down on a rock because it felt nice, smile at each other because it felt right, and hold
each moment close because we had nowhere else to be. We meandered at the pace of the trickling stream at our feet, which once was a raging river before the great flood of Alberta. It was a river that used to push the stones aside with great strength and determination in order to flow in a straight line, always moving forward. Now, it calmly allows itself to be guided by the stones, winding and bending, as it naturally flows through their gaps and crevices.
Just as I had hoped, it was a powerful spiritual experience. For one day, I was able to ease my busy and distressed mind. I asked it to slow down and forget about the rush of life, and it answered me by allowing my first taste of contentment. My peers and I have reached a time of great uncertainty with the path that lies ahead. But, we need to take a deep breath and realize that there’s no finish line, there’s no end game. It’s no wonder why life can slip by us so quickly, because we walk so fast, we never process a single moment in its entirety. Slow down, I mean, it’s only life after all.
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