In 2013 I did Yoga teacher training. That was also the year I undertook the West Highland Way, a 96 mile hiking route in the beautiful Scottish Highlands. During the time I was hiking, I was also working on my course work. Part of that month’s homework was to spend a day without complaining or uttering anything negative, to watch my thoughts and to use Pratipaksha Bhanavam when needed. This is my report on my experience
I chose to do my ‘day of positivity’ on what I believed would be the hardest day of the ‘West Highland Way, a 20 miles day I was assured by my experienced friend would be a very challenging day.
I decided to do it on this day as I reasoned that one of us being positive would be the best way for us all to get through the day, that by remaining positive I would be able to motivate my companions and myself.
The day began well with a 2 hour practice on my mat, which ended with me feeling really good, and really full of enthusiasm for the day’s challenges. Then I went to the internet on my phone and read the news of the suicide of Robin Williams.
I felt such a huge sadness at this, not just for Robin Williams, but also for my friend Lorene who also took this route out of life, and for another friend who I know is often perilously close to making this decision herself.
I walked to the bank of Loch Lomond and sat and cried for a few minutes. Then, remembering my ‘positive day’ decision, I resolved to find gratitude in the situation.
I silently thanked Robin Williams for all the laughter he has given me over the years through his films. I felt gratitude for having known Lorene, and for the fact that my other friend has so far managed to get herself past the suicidal feelings she has experienced.
I also felt gratitude for myself; I have come close to the sort of despair and misery that could have led me to similar decision in the past. I resolved to make much more of an effort to make sure I am in my friend’s life to support her more, and, and to make sure that I keep as much positivity in myself as possible to ensure I don’t ever fall into that despair again.
The tide of the Loch helped me regain my positivity as well that morning. I always find the feeling of inevitability of the tides incredibly reassuring; the realisation that no matter what happens in human existence, the tide will keep turning.
I returned to my friends, and, discussing the sad news about Robin Williams, we began our day’s hike.
The positivity was tested fairly early into the day when Lee-Anne and I realised that we were again walking very slowly due to the slow pace being kept by the 3rd of our party, who was struggling a little, and that we would not be able to complete the day’s walk at the pace we were at. As we had lost 6 miles from the hike on the previous day when she opted for getting a bus for the last 6 miles of the day’s walk, I found myself getting very frustrated and annoyed at the thought that we might have to lose more miles. I resolved that whatever she decided to do later in the day, I was going to walk the full 20 miles, even if it meant walking alone, as it would be far better for me to do this than be angry and resentful about losing more miles, as this would have affected our relationship for the rest of the week.
By lunchtime, we had been walking for 3 reasonably easy hours, and have only got 6 miles. It was decided that I would continue the day’s walk alone, and the others would head on public transport to the next campsite. I was more than happy to do this, and to be able to walk at my pace for the afternoon. I set off at 2pm with 14 miles to walk.
One of my team mates lent me her ipod, which meant I had lots of feel good music to keep me going, and I spent the majority of the afternoon in incredibly high spirits, happy to be walking at my usual fast pace, singing songs I love with no concern for being ‘caught’ out by others, and dancing with every step!
My positivity was tested by about mile 16, when I realised that my socks were starting to get wet.
By mile 17, I started to become convinced that Scottish miles are significantly longer than Welsh miles, as I seemed to be making surprisingly slow progress despite walking at what must have been at least 3 miles an hour.
I was starting to tire, and finding it hard to stay positive, but I managed to continue to remain positive by reflecting on how much I had achieved so far, and by focussing on the music that was definitely keeping me going by this point.
My relief when I got to the campsite we were staying at, and seeing my friend, who had prepared my food already for me, was immense!
Being able to put dry socks on at last was possibly the most incredibly wonderful sensation I could remember having for a long time, and the feeling of accomplishment and happiness at what I had done was amazing.
I was so glad I had chosen this day to be my ‘day of positivity’, as I would have struggled to stay positive through the last 3 wet miles had I not been focussed on the idea of positivity.
I have been aware that recently I am far more positive in general than I have ever been before, that life doesn’t drag me down as much as it used to. The week of the West Highland Way challenge has been a real challenge to my upbeat mood at many times, but the feeling of accomplishment I have from it cannot be beaten.
Whenever I feel that I can’t do something in the future, I am going to remind myself that I walked 90 wet, hard, long miles in 6 days, and that I can do anything I set my mind to!
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