Doing things that scare + strengthen me

Quite a few Sundays ago, I was anxious. Which isn’t uncommon for me, and I have my tools to work through it, but this particular week I wanted to really give myself something to be worried and scared about. So, I decided to go on a night hike.

Well, I didn’t decide right away to go on a night hike. It was more like, I’m going on this drive—which I often do on Sundays—and I’ll just dress for a hike and bring my hiking boots just in case. And then, as I often do, I arrived at the trailhead and thought, yep, I’m hiking tonight!

I started off around 5:30pm, if I recall. I saw one person on the trail the whole time, coming back to the parking lot while I was heading off into the mountains. I was quietly praying aloud (I usually either pray in my head or, in cases like this when I think I’m absolutely alone, pray quietly aloud) when I saw this guy walking toward me. I quickly stopped and smiled and played it cool. SUPER COOL. Haha! Then I kept going, kept praying, and kept trekking along. The sun went down and I kept going.

I got to a fork in the trail, where I usually hike to alone, and I think I walked just a few steps further before realizing that the darkness + trail conditions probably meant I should turn around. A few steps after turning around I realized that the ground became more slick and I could no longer see the details in the snow to watch my footing. Luckily, I had a flashlight in my car that I had taken for this exact reason. I took it out of my backpack, turned it on, and kept going.

That is when I realized just how dark it was, and that is when my prayers turned to quietly humming hymns in a marching beat as I carefully but quickly headed back down the mountain.

And that is when I finally gave myself a reason to be scared.

I got back to the parking lot to discover that my car was the only one there, illuminated by the glow of the moon. I laughed and happy-danced in the parking lot, because that night, I did something scary, and I felt crazy empowered.

I never posted about this, primarily to avoid the common responses (“A woman shouldn’t hike alone!”), plus the newer expected responses (“A woman shouldn’t hike alone, and DEFINITELY NOT IN THE DARK ON A SNOWY COLD MOUNTAIN, ALLIE.”) I know. Thank you for your concerns. But truly, no regrets. I always bring the appropriate supplies (including pepper spray) when I hike, and I always let someone know where I am and when they should expect me home, and what to do if I do not return at that time (panic, find me, avenge my death, etc). I make sure I am safe when I hike, and I could go more into this, but that is not the point of this post.

an enthusiastic, slightly scared, slightly chilly, and slightly blind person hiking in a forest at night!

The point is, I felt alive, and I did something scary, and I felt alive, and empowered, and strong. In a personal season of grief, fear, betrayal, heartache, and perceived powerlessness, I needed that night. I still need the memory of that night. I have no desire to go out and do another night hike at this time, but I am trying to be aware of those things that make me feel alive, empowered, strong, and all the good things, and I try to do those things regularly. And so my question for you is…

What do you do to help you feel alive, empowered, and strong?

Send me an email at alliebarnesyoga [at] gmail [dot com], or DM me on Instagram at @alliebarnesyoga and tell me! I’m always looking for ideas, and I’d love to share your experiences on here or on Instagram if you’re okay with that!

Sacred Hiking

Every time I sit down to write about a hike, I stop myself. Of all the activities I do, I realize that hiking is probably the most sacred to me, and it apparently causes me to be very private about my hiking life! This all started probably two years ago, in a fit of heartache and hurt, finding that exercise—namely, pushing myself up Y Mountain in Provo, Utah multiple times a week and trying to beat my time each day—would help me feel better. I rarely listened to music, but instead listened to the world around me, said hello to strangers, and kept an almost constant prayer going in my mind. Y Mountain isn’t my go-to anymore, but the practice remains: when I need to feel strong, centered, and peaceful, I go to the trails.