Freedom of the Hills: Leaving It All Behind

At the end of this summer my family and I relocated to the Smoky Mountains to pursue new ventures and adventures. To get to this Adventure Cabin & Hostel we run called We Blew Inn, you make a journey through twisting bumpy rising falling mountain roads, and then you’ve arrived to more of the same. We also brought a small vintage fibreglass RV made in 1979, and every week we venture farther into the mountains for what we call Freedom of the Hills, and we leave it all behind. It seems that everywhere we go is the same journey: twisting bumping rising falling, leaving it all behind, and then we’ve arrived.

What a place to arrive at, where each journey takes its own course, and no amount of expert navigation can predict the surprises and wonders along the way. I find that each place is a place of peace, with a silently gushing river, creek or branch, animals and insects moving about, trees swaying and leaves rustling in the wind, people meandering through the woods all the time, everyone walking slowly and deliberately; no distractions, with constant gratitude and mindfulness just to be here. This is a beautiful place of peace.

As I contemplate the peace of leaving it all behind, I am constantly wondering why we need a place in the mountains for this kind of peace.

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…

― John Muir

I’m no stranger to work overload, long days and weeks and months of hustle, racing to finish lines while constantly changing the starting lines, and wondering if there were any reprieve around the bend. I’m also no stranger to building a community or participating in one, being available for questions or lend a helping word or hand, or being available for friends or colleagues that require insight or inspiration. But at the end of these long days, you find that giving is hard work, it is draining, and it wears on your soul like the rivers seem to wear on their rocks. We need to sharpen ourselves.

And so I’ve been practicing minimizing to bare essentials and leaving it all behind, no matter what I’m doing, every day. What is this like?

Imagine you’re going to meet with someone, but you’re still thinking about the project you’ve been working on. You’ve brought the project with you. It distracts you so that you don’t fully hear the person you’re with, and they can sense your lack of attention, your lack of presence. This hurts the relationship. It stresses you out, because you’re working on the project and talking with someone at the same time. You are less competent with one task because you’re still thinking about another.

Stress, less competency, and hurt relationships. This is what we have when we bring everything with us to every activity. This happens social circles, teams, companies and communities, every day. It happens in our government’s quarters, and our family’s den.

But if you can leave the project or burden behind, the talk will be much better, the time fulfilling and rewarding. You’ll be fully present, fully engaged and less stressed out.

A place of peace. This is what we are really after, and what I have found, nestled between these mountains. 

Great things are done when men {or women} and mountains meet

― William Blake.

How to Find Your Freedom of the Hills and Leave It All Behind

So how do we leave everything behind, so that we can find peace? 

It’s not easy. It’s not a one time decision or action, it is pure and simple practice; then more practice. But it’s a wholly worthwhile practice.

Not everyone will take such extensive measures as I have and sell everything, become a minimalist in thought, possession and action; but everyone can find peace within their path.

Here’s are some simple steps to practice I have found:

  • When you arrive in a new place, or talk to someone, or start something new … just pause.
  • Then take a brief moment to journey through the mountain road, leaving behind the rest of your life. Just let go, by loosening your grip, by relaxing instead of grasping; then see it fall behind.
  • Then arrive in the new place. Look around, smile, and enjoy. Inhabit the new place and give thanks for being there.
  • Then put your attention on this new place. This new person. This new activity.
  • When you notice your attention wander, just return to that mountain road and find yourself in this place.
  • Let go of the need to check, to constantly be busy with something else, to know what’s going on or to do everything. This is our vice. Then remember…

I am just here.
And here is great.

I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.

― Nelson Mandela



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