Let go of the old, learn something new. Do you sometimes feel lonely in such situations? This is completely normal. Walking alone, you can face the unpleasant sense of lonelinessTrekking Alone: Meet Mindfulness Of Loneliness and mix it up with mindfulness.
When I tell about my first mountain hike from hut to hut that I have walked all by myself, folks usually gets big eyes. Sometimes they also open their mouths. Or both. “What? Alone hiking in the mountains? That’s very dangerous. Imagine, you hurt yourself and nobody is with you. For me, such a thing would be out of the question. “I understand these concerns well, because there is something in them as well. If you’ve ever been out in the mountains, you know that sometimes you do not meet a soul for several hours. If it then comes to an accident and you can not continue hiking, that can have unpleasant consequences. Depending on the altitude and outside temperature you can cool down quickly, cell phone reception is usually not. So then only the emergency call remains. However, I suspect that the risk of injury is not the only reason many people do not enjoy walking alone. It is quite possible that they are afraid of something much worse in their eyes – the feeling of loneliness. How to handle that feeling with mindfulness and why walking is ideal.
In unfamiliar situations, we often feel lonely – even when hiking alone
For example, the feeling of loneliness comes to me when I am just getting a new experience. Do you know that, too? You’re fired and looking for a new job. You move to another city. You separate yourself from a person who has meant something to you. Or: You are walking alone on your own for the first time. All situations that are new, and because they are new, initially trigger a sense of insecurity, sometimes fear – and loneliness. To learn or make happen new things always means to let go old things too. This is usually quite difficult for us, and sometimes we feel lonely at the same time. Although the new situation or experience does not even have to be negative.
Exactly this happened to me in the summer exactly twenty years ago, when I went to the Schladminger Tauern, to go my first mountain hike with backpack from hut to hut alone. Weeks before I felt this urge to want to have such an experience. So far, I’ve only ever been out in the mountains with other people. But now I finally wanted to know what it’s like to do it alone, without a constant companion and conversation partner next to me. The feeling of loneliness set in a few days before my departure, then increased during the train ride and came over me completely, as I sat in the evening in my hostel in Radstadt eating – alone at the dining table, next to me only couples or groups of people who, like me, wanted to go to the mountains the next day.
Mindfulness means not fighting against the feeling of loneliness
The next morning I finally started my mountain tour – alone. I emphasize this again because there is a difference between being alone and lonely, which many like to lump together. Alone I was on my mountain tour, because there was simply nobody else next to me. So I was in a state of physical aloneness. But as it happens, this physical state of being alone can make you more emotional – and that means loneliness. A feature of this condition is the feeling of being isolated and having no contact with other people. The unpleasant thing about this feeling is that almost at the same time, thoughts and musings about the past and the future, which further reinforce the feeling of loneliness.
Stop! I do not want to share this story to tell you how bad it is to walk alone. On the contrary: hiking alone has the wonderful advantage that you can perceive yourself very well. Especially your feelings, and just the feeling of loneliness. You just have to get involved and not fight that feeling. Resistance against it only makes it worse. When I was traveling alone at that time, I was not yet aware of the positive effect of mindfulness in solitude. With mindfulness, I generally had nothing in mind. However, there were situations in which I slipped into a state of presence in the here and now. I was “only” in the present moment.
For the first time this happened to me, when I sat down for a rest on a rock and before me in the valley had my goal in mind – the mountain hut at the Giglachseen. I bit into a cereal bar, took a sip of water from the bottle and looked down into the valley. Happy to have made my first day’s walk soon, I did not think about the past anymore. I did not think about tomorrow or what would happen to me in the next days of my mountain tour. Suddenly I did not feel lonely anymore, but I was in the moment, and that was good for me. Just the concentration, the focus on my rest, on my food, let me be mindful. Nothing else was important at this moment. The mountains, the valley, the lakes, the sky – me. By focusing on the moment, my negative thoughts – and thus my negative sense of loneliness – slowly began to evaporate. It passed. As the clouds go by in the sky. Or have you ever seen a cloud that stays permanently in the same place?
Mindfulness also sets-in in the flow
As you can see, mindfulness is always possible, almost anywhere. You do not have to spend hours in the lotus position and meditate. You do not need to visit everlasting retreats. The important thing is that you are undisturbed and you take this time completely for you alone and treat yourself. Mindfulness also occurs when you are so engaged in an activity that you come into a flow. When you concentrate solely on what you are doing. If you are completely present in the here and now. In this moment of dealing with the flow activity, there is no room left for unpleasant thoughts. And none for negative feelings like loneliness and isolation. At the very least, these feelings diminish when you dive into the moment completely and perceive nothing else.
In the flow, I was on my mountaineering trip as I had to negotiate a fairly steep serpentine passage to reach my destination, a mountain hut on the other side of a ridge. I took it slow with the climb and chose a walking pace that let my pulse beat evenly. One turn after the other. Over and over again. So I hiked up the slope and was suddenly completely with me. Only me, the slope and the serpentines. I was so busy walking that I was startled when suddenly I saw two hiking boots on a small rock in front of me. A wanderer wanted to make room for me.
What I mean by that: Instead of staying in the feeling of loneliness, giving space to negative thoughts and pondering, start doing something! Best something that you love to do. For me it is hiking. If you then enter the state of flow, your sense of loneliness and isolation will automatically reduce or even dissolve completely. Hiking is so good because, depending on the area, you are exposed to very little or no external stimuli. The most important prerequisite, however, is and remains your readiness to face loneliness. At the end of the day, you are frustrated by not being able to endure this unpleasant feeling. Remember: Loneliness is just a feeling that may well be in the spirit of mindfulness. You only make it worse or more unsustainable the more importance you attach to it through your thoughts, because your thoughts create your reality.
5 minute breath meditation against the feeling of loneliness while hiking alone
Find a quiet and undisturbed place to rest or just sit, for example, a rock with a view or a clearing.
Sit in the most upright, dignified position possible. Your hands are loosely on your thighs or in your lap.
Focus your attention on your breath as it flows in and out of the nostrils. See how your abdominal wall lifts when inhaled and lowers as you exhale. Breathe in and out a few times in the natural flow of your breath. You do not need to change your breath.
Realize what triggers the feeling of loneliness in you. Maybe you feel a tightness in the chest or an uncomfortable feeling in the stomach area? Maybe something else?
Just perceive your feeling, observe it, but do not judge it. Do not judge yourself for your feeling!
If your mind is wandering during breath meditation (which it usually does) and you lose your contact to breathe, take good note of it and do not condemn it. However, slowly but surely return to focusing on your breath.
These are the things I lost along my journey through life and that I want to rediscover during my training hikes and on the trekking journey around the world I plan for 2020 – what are your experiences while hiking along? Feel free to share them with me in the comment box below.