Experiential Learning: Group Exercises for Mindful Hiking

Often times, I’ll lead hikes or trips with a group of people in which our goals are to learn something valuable from the experience that we might be able to apply in our daily lives. Experiential learning. I’ll usually set up an outline, perhaps having a series of quotes which might give a particular perspective, or perhaps having a few engaging interactive activities planned that might enhance the experience. Through the experience, guided reflection, and de-brief facilitation, the insights that people share are often so much more powerful than anything I (as one individual) could have come up with on my own. That’s the beauty of group learning! Here was my simple outline going into today’s Mindful Hiking workshop at Heart of the Village Yoga in Manchester, VT. I’d read a “quote”; we’d brief the next section of the hike; hike a little; do some yoga postures; de-brief; and then move on to the next quote and segment of our little hike.



(Quotes adapted from “The Pocket Thich Nhat Hanh)

Mindfulness of Breathe: The way to maintain your presence in the here and now is through the mindfulness of the breathe. There is no need to manipulate the breathe. Beathe is a natural thing; like air, like light, we should leave it as it is and not interfere with it. What we are doing is simply lighting up the lamp of awareness to illuminate our breathing. We generate the energy of mindfulness to illuminate everything that is happening in the present moment.

Brief: Let’s use all of our senses to feel, hear, see, taste and smell our breathe… and then use all of our senses to feel, hear, see, taste and smell everything that is happening around us in this present moment.

De-Brief: Does anyone want to share anything about this experience, what you might have observed in yourself or around you?

 Walking Meditation Practice: Walking is an important form of meditation. It can be a very deep spiritual practice. Walk without effort; walk without strain. Just enjoy walking. When you walk in mindfulness, you are in touch with all of the wonders of life within you and around you. For many of us, this can be difficult because our minds are elsewhere and we are not walking with our full body and our full consciousness. We see our minds and our bodies as two separate things. While our bodies are walking one way, our consciousness is tugging us in a different direction. When we understand the interconnectedness of our bodies and our minds, the simple act of walking can feel supremely easy and pleasurable.

Brief: Let’s take a step and touch the earth in such a way that you establish yourself in the present moment. No effort required: your foot touches the earth mindfully, and you arrive firmly in the here and now. You are fully present, fully alive, and you are touching the earth. Breathe in and take one step, and focus all of your attention on the sole of your foot. Smile, then take the next step!

De-Brief: Does anyone want to share anything about this experience, what you might have observed in yourself or around you?

Touching the Earth: Touching the earth each day helps us in many ways. The earth has been here for a long time. She is mother to all of us. She knows everything. With the earth we are very safe. She is very patient; she helps us; she protects us. When we die, she takes us back into her arms. She is always there to support us, in all of her wonderful expressions like trees, flowers, butterflies, and sunshine. Touching the earth is a good practice to heal you and restore your joy.

Brief:  Now, let’s take each step with an attitude of gratitude for the earth and all of her wondrous expressions. Touch the earth; touch her expressions… the leaves, the soil, the water, the flowers… Feel her support and patience.

De-Brief: Does anyone want to share anything about this experience, what you might have observed in yourself or around you?

Children of the Earth: We are all children of the earth. We are continually rising from Mother Earth, being nurtured by her, and then returning to her. All life is impermanent. Like us, plants are born, live for a period of time, and then return to the earth and become the source of food for future growth, future generations. We all depend on each other. We humans think we’re intelligent, but an orchid, for example, knows how to produce symmetrical flowers; a snail knows how to a make beautiful, well-proportioned shell. Compared with their knowledge, ours might not be worth that much at all. Maybe we should bow down to the orchid and the snail. Maybe we should join our palms reverently before the butterfly and the oak tree. Maybe, feeling respect for all species will help us recognize and cultivate the noblest nature in ourselves.

Brief: Let’s walk as if we are nature itself, dependent on each and every plant, animal, and organism… each and every mineral, element, piece of matter around us. Perhaps, as we feel their vulnerability, we’ll feel our own. Perhaps, as we feel their importance in the web of life, we’ll feel our own too.


Does anyone want to share anything about this experience, what you might have observed in yourself or around you?

What is the biggest take-away, most meaningful learning experience, that you’ll take way with you and into your daily lives from today’s hike?


A Perspective on Eating Well

There are many perspectives on eating well and healthy diets. I try to keep it simple:

1. Have an attitude that your life and longevity is your responsibility. It is a daily experiment in which you are the boss of your lab. As in any experiential learning model in which you do something, learn from it, and do it again (better), learn to pay attention to what you eat and how it makes you feel… then adjust. In this case, it’s about being healthy, being resilient, sustaining your life. We’re all a little different. Learn. Learn about what works for you.

2. Have positive goals, but make changes one step at a time in a way that ensures success. Remember, it is a life-long experiment; it is a way of life. Start today. Then again. And again… Today is the most important day of your life. Be positively successful. If it is not enough to set these goals for the benefit of yourself, set them for the benefit of others, perhaps a loved one for whom you are responsible. Be their role model. Walk the walk!

3. Have support. We all tend to want to be warriors in life and prove our own ability to do things on our own. Okay. But we will often be limited in our growth to our previous experience and knowledge. Find a coach, a mentor, a health counselor or therapist, or a motivating – yet diverse – support group. If we want to continually change to be healthy and live longer, we must: (1) be aware of possibilities (education), (2) be motivated to change (personal determination, inspired coaching), (3) be ready to actually change (personal responsibility and ongoing support), then make the changes, and (4) pay attention to change as it happens, reflect, and learn. Begin again.

It is often not enough to know what to do, we all will benefit also from learning how to do it. It is logical as teachers to assume that if we provide valuable information, a student will naturally use that information to try to improve what they do. Not enough. As students, each of us will benefit from learning the steps in how to eat better. You say, “Eat real foods and avoid processed foods.” I say, “how?” Often, the “how-to’s” expose themselves in the process of actually doing things and while trying to eat better. Thus, the on-going coaching and support is vital to helping provide these insights.

Where to start? Take responsibility for your own health, set goals, learn, and get support!

For learning, here are a few resources that I have found helpful:

Precision Nutrition’s Blog and Infographics. Here are a couple of examples:

Answers to common questions



A few years ago, a friend of mine gave me some simple advice:

(1) Clean out the kitchen;

(2) Go get real food, locally-grown if possible;

(3) Make real food and eat it!

“How?” I asked.

He said, “Try starting as follows:”

At the grocery store, shop around the perimeter where real food is displayed and perhaps chilled. Start with vegetables and fruits of all colors. The center aisles tend to display packaged and processed foods. Real foods are foods that are closest to being in their natural state. If possible, shop at the local farmer’s market. In your diet, taking one step at a time, work towards the following. When you are successful with these items, we’ll go from there and perhaps look at things like vitamins and minerals, supplementation, potential allergies, timing of eating, and of course exercise! Let’s start by getting a healthy digestive system, improving the digestive environment (bacteria and enzymes) of our guts, and reducing associated inflammation in our bodies!

(1) Eliminate sugar and flour: Eliminate all foods that contain processed sugar and/or flour. This includes soft drink and fruit juices, and anything containing high-fructose corn syrup.
(2) Add healthy fats: Use healthy fats such butter, meat fat, ghee, olive oil, lard, coconut oil, whole cream, and coconut milk to replace the calories that were coming from sugars and flours.
(3) Eliminate vegetable / seed oils: These require excessive processing. Use the healthy fats listed above instead, fats closest to their natural state.
(4) Reduce grain intake: This is one of those areas where further research is on-going. Is it the grain itself? Or, is it the source and processing of the grain which causes inflammation in some people? Learn for yourself. Try reducing grain intake, particularly wheat, barley, and rye. Replace these foods with more nourishing and nutrient-dense safe-starches, like potatoes and rice (a low-processed grain), for example. Or, get whole grains from a local, non-industrialized source, a source with minimal processing.

Breakfast of Champions

When we look at our evolution and see that many of the common modern-day health problems weren’t common in our evolutionary history, we start to see the many, many variables that influence a healthy diet. A diet based on evolutionary science, using modern, evidence-based data, would probably look like this:

EAT: Vegetables (including root vegetables), fruit (including fruit oils), nuts, fish, meat, eggs, tubers, and maybe… dairy (especially fermented), legumes, and non-refined whole grains.

AVOID: Added sugars and nutritional products of industry (including refined fats, and refined carbohydrates)… items from the center aisles!

Simple enough? Okay. Let’s go! Take your health to new heights… Eat well. Keep hydrated. Move and exercise. Get rest. Have support in your life. And learn!

Keep it simple. Be successful. It’s up to you. Walk the walk. Today.

Here’s to a long, hearty life!Tetons- Maggie's Pictures 170

PS: Thanks to my friend and mentor, Tyler S for your guidance, information, and inspiration… You know who you are… and many reading this will too. If you want me to share your info, let me know!

Another reference: blog.dansplan.com/a-meta-analysis-of-the-paleolithic-nutrition-pattern-an-interview-of-authors.




A Facilitator of Learning

These thoughts began today after some discussions about my work. I found myself trying to clarify my intentions for my work. I’d like to generate clear and concise plans. In the past, I’ve tended to focus on reasonable business and job opportunities available… what other people think. This time, I’m trying to take a step back and really listen to my intuition, tune into being me, and then stepping forward in ways more natural to being me. Today, these words flowed out of me…

I am a learner. I facilitate learning. I am humble… in that I look at every being with an attitude of respect and dignity, and every experience (and human interaction) as an opportunity for learning. I look at life as one big experiment. The experiential education model fits my perspective on learning and in life: do… reflect… learn and adapt… do again. I tend to see the beauty of each person’s soul… and enjoy helping people see it themselves, in themselves. Thus, I enjoy helping people find joy, inner-power, and feelings of ease and equanimity. One person at a time; one group at a time. (And because I see everything as being connected, in time and in space, just like Nature, I feel that each of our impacts in our lives on this Earth is Universal and Divine in Nature.) I care for people in a very deep, unassuming and non-judgmental way. I connect with others through my heart and feelings of compassion first. And I am very loyal to those with whom I’m connected. It’s just who I am.

When I speak of the desire to help others or be a leader, it is from this perspective. The teaching is in the facilitation of helping people learn from experiences, helping to enhance their lives, and helping them see in themselves what they haven’t yet seen. Perhaps, even helping them feel re-connected spiritually in this World .

Ultimately, we expand the limits of our learning and capabilities through being engaged with others. I am inspired by group-learning, team-building, and community-building… and the challenges of finding common ground and synergistic relationships within diversity. For me, I tend to just see common ground and positive solutions, not differences or road-blocks.

I see myself as a humble facilitator of learning… planting seeds… bringing joy, one village at a time. Being a mirror… perhaps a filtered mirror that tries to reflect back positivity.

I do not boast of these things. It is not my ego speaking. It is just who I am. In fact, in talking about myself, I feel like I am not being my natural me. You see, I respect your knowledge, your being, your experience, our relationship, with reverence. My experience is just my experience; yours is yours. Each is unique and special. We learn together through our mutual experience. I want to learn from you and your experience, your perspective! I enjoy facilitating these shared learning experiences.

When I do something contrary to my perceived self-attributes… like writing about my opinions in a way that sounds like I’m trying to sell one perspective, or when working for instance in a environments of ego, judgment, disrespect… I feel like I’m violating my sense of personal integrity.

So, I quietly observe, learn, and often move on.

From my perspective, because I just see the world this way, I tend to assume everyone sees things the same way… and sees me respectfully in this same, unassuming Way.

When I am quiet, it is often because I am bored, or not being engaged, or not being seen for who I am, or not learning, or not feeling connecting with others in a whole-hearted way. It is not that I am unhappy; my mind and heart just goes to places where I feel connected (often in a very visual and dream-state way). I just long to be connected in the present time and present space. And that connection is often created by the present experience of learning, adapting, making things better, or challenging myself through the adventure of new experiences… or practicing and teaching yoga… or being in Nature… with others.

I continue to be drawn more and more to yoga as my intended path. I feel like I have a strong intuition. Practicing yoga enhances my sense of intuition. In a way, it seems to validate deeply what I probably already naturally know in my body to be true.

Why am I writing all of this down today? I guess I’m just trying to stay true to being me. Maybe, I am just honoring my dad and mom. My dad (see my Tribute in this blog) passed away two years ago today. I am visiting my mom tomorrow. I honor her resiliency; they were together about 70 years. Now, she lives alone. That eats away at my soul…

It reminds me how much I care. It reminds me to honor my empathetic and intuitive nature. It also reminds me to keep on learning and sharing educational experiences with others.


I am just trying to find my place, my Way… and I cherish having my wife Jo (and our dog Emma) by my side. I feel gratitude for each and every person and experience (positive and negative) in my life who has helped me see the best in me… starting with my parents.

I honor and respect each of our individual paths. From my perspective, I see them with equal importance, vital importance. We may each feel small, but we are each part of something huge. We are all in this together. My life ultimately depends on me (and that feeling of responsibility drives my learning). My life also depends on each of you.