As we walk single file along a Cougar Mountain trail, the lush temperate rainforest zings my senses. No talking, just walking, listening, seeing, and perceiving. Each frond of the luxuriant big sword fern I pass seems alert and awake, mirroring my own striving. I sense keenly the abundant life of the forest we pass through and feel a part of this community of fecund energy. After 30 minutes of silent hiking, the clear pitch of a bell rings through the forest ahead of me. I pull out my sit pad and find a spot to settle alongside the trail for sitting meditation. The mosquitoes are frantic with excitement that we’re here, but we’ve slathered on bug juice to thwart their feasting.
After 10 minutes, the bell rings again. I strap my sit pad back onto my pack and rejoin my place in line. We continue hiking silently for another 30 minutes across a rustic wooden bridge over a coursing stream, through a grove of western red cedars, and up more switchbacks to a wooden bench at the summit. Time for another short sit, then we retrace our steps back down the mountain.
Last summer I started joining the Blue Heron Zen Community on their monthly silent meditation hikes and now I’m hooked. We go rain or snow or shine, year-round. On the Tiger Mountain hike last November it rained the first two hours and then we hiked through a soft, enveloping mist as we got high up on the mountain. Nobody else was out there and it was great!
Anyone and everyone is welcome to come along. We meet at the Yoga Barn in Issaquah at 12:30 the first Sunday of each month. Carpools form there, and the hikes are generally within a 30-minute drive east up the I-90 corridor, if not somewhere closer within the Issaquah Alps. The hikes are from 1:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon (give or take 15 minutes on either end) and consist of a half hour of hiking interspersed with 10 minutes of sitting. Talking and laughter before and after the hike is encouraged!
For information about future hikes, go to www.blueheronzen.org and click on the calendar link.
Contributor: Jill Irwin.
Photo: Jill Irwin.