A Mindful Hike Recap (with Photos!)

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Group walking sm

Note: Please don’t miss our group members’ photos at the end of the post. 

Where have the last few weeks gone? It was three weeks ago yesterday that I hosted a mindful walk – A Mindful Hike (with Camera) – in Pittsburgh’s Frick Park. It felt and looked like fall that day, and yet autumn has been unfolding every day since. I remember hitting the same trail just four days later, and it was 1,000 times more golden. This is all to say:

  1. Fall keeps unfolding in front of us, sometimes pretty rapidly
  2. It’s been a beautiful autumn here in Pittsburgh, even if the temps have been eerily warm
  3. There’s still time to get outside before the snow flies (not that the snow will stop you!)

log smAs for the mindful hike…wow! What a group. This is the first time I’ve offered this hike, and I’m happy to say that we had a fantastic group that was eager to be outside taking photos and to explore how the act of taking photos can either enhance or distract our nature experiences. This dilemma carries over into all of life. Are we “logging our lives” or are we living them? Here’s an interesting article on “photo-taking impairment effect.”

Related to this, the most interesting thing happened as we considered the relationship between taking photos and being present. We started out with each of us quietly snapping shots and interacting with this great natural spot. As careful and as thoughtful that we set out to be, we probably took a good number of photos and weren’t exactly connected. By the end of the walk, though, there was a shift in our experience. Someone mentioned that about half way through she had put away her camera and was simply there with nature. That was enough. Everyone agreed – we went from an exercise of photography to just being in the park.

On being mindful

We did our best to be present and simply enjoy a crisp fall morning. I think that anyone who’s working on their mindfulness knows that it’s a practice that never ends. We must work to “be here now.” But there we were – six people together in the woods without any social media, any texting, or other distractions. We focused on photos, nature, and each other, and it was beautiful.

On doing something for oneself

What else was remarkable about the hike? For me, it was learning that setting aside a morning for this was something to be celebrated. I’m outside so much (either with coaching clients or personally) that I take it for granted that we make time to go to the forest. I recognize that this isn’t the case for everyone. So it’s worth mentioning that the act of committing to (and paying for) the workshop helped to get everyone there (on a Saturday morning, no less). There was a general sentiment of feeling pleased with sticking to it and showing up. It can be hard to put ourselves first, particularly when the thing that we’re doing is for personal enjoyment. I’m so glad that everyone in our crew did, and could tell that they were glad, too.

On gentleness and “allowing it”

Crooked tree smI’ll end with a quote shared with me by one of our participants. It’s funny – I remember seeing this tree that was tall and straight next to one that was curved and leaning. It was beautiful to see them together, and then Kristi comes along with this Ram Dass quote. Let’s take it to heart, folks.  Let’s see ourselves and the people around us with the same sense of appreciation and gentleness we would afford this leaning tree.

“When you go out into the woods, and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying ‘You are too this, or I’m too this.’ That judgment mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.” Ram Dass

Our Photos

Thanks to Jodi, Kristi, and Maura for sharing a few of your favorite photos! Below are a handful of theirs and mine. Some are captioned to include personal meaning for the photographer.

zoom in sm
Photo by Kristi Rogers: “This was a bench and I just loved the colors and texture (something that I really look for and is definitely represented in a lot of my shots from that day.)”


Photo by Maura O’Neill – a sapling with the new Frick Environmental Center in the background


Queen Annes
Here’s one of my own. One of the items on the group’s shot list was “quintessential fall.” For me, seeing wildflowers like Queen Anne’s Lace in their final stages is very representative of fall for me. One thing I love about this photo is that I didn’t notice the spider web on the right until I was home looking back at my photos.


Photo by Jodi Hilliard (representing something she wants to remember from the day)


metaphor sm
Photo by Kristi Rogers: “This was one of my first shots, but there is something that I find very beautiful in it..it’s very monotone, but the overlapping textures and patterns, the softer round shapes and very straight lines… again, the contrasts…allude to all the many different ways our lives are filled with the balance of opposites…all coexisting.”


Photo by Maura O’Neill. I love the lighting and that this shows that many of the leaves had yet to change by mid-October (although I see a hint of orange and brown in the background).


Photo by Jodi Hilliard (representing a metaphor for her life and vision)


don't normally_sm
Photo by Kristi Rogers. Kristi took this photo to represent the shot list item “Something you don’t normally photograph.” About the photo, she said, “This one was challenging, because I did have a lot of ‘detail’ shots, but this was the only one that really had a purposeful depth of field to it… the detail of the tree bark and the soft ground leaves in the background. I was using my iPhone and was pretty happy to get this one shot with more depth of field than I thought I might be able to achieve with my old phone!”
Photo by Maura O’Neill – great lines and very representative of the Ravine Trail in the fall


Jodi close up
Photo by Jodi Hilliard, who was “zooming in” on these fungi, fallen leaves, and a moss-covered log


Two trunks
Here’s another my own photos from the day. I don’t know why, but I’ve been taking pictures of trees from about this angle for the past 9-10 years. I love to look up a tree trunk but have yet to articulate the personal significance.



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