By Larry Feinstein

Kaua‘i’s North Shore, seen from Kilohana Lookout in Koke‘e.

This has to do with a language, sometimes spoken between mind and body, and we are often the last to find out, especially when we don’t pay attention.

Last summer, I took a hike fairly high up in Koke‘e. After my 14 years on Kaua‘i, I had finally decided it was time to begin walking inside the island. I have been happily living in the doughnut all this time, while surrounded by a delicious, green interior.

I lived for many years in northern New Mexico before coming here, and hiking the trails was a regular pastime. I loved being out in the high desert, and my memories are wonderful. I was not one of those type As, needing to get to a non-existent finish line and always took my time. Often, I had my three dogs with me, no collars or leashes. The changing, seasonal scenes were magical, going from multi-shaded greens to electric fall yellow to naked winter branches with blanketing snow below. Trails were pretty well maintained, so I could be engulfed by the surroundings, without being too careful.

In other words, New Mexico is a tough act to follow, and the distance of time made memories even more perfect. The moment I set foot on the actual trail up Koke‘e, I instantly got in touch with a mind that was broadcasting a tentative approach to my body. It was shocking enough for me to be still holding on to it. I was looking at my feet with more concentration than I remember ever before, a definite hesitancy in my footing.

I immediately started thinking about whether the message was somehow coming from my aging body, surreptitiously transmitted to my brain, or if my brain had been observing my body and came to its own conclusion.

As babies, we will happily crawl off a cliff because the mind is way behind the body’s maturation. It is so new, we are shocked by a never ending parade of stimuli. Growing up, we revel in an expansive view of our physical abilities. We get good at doing things.

We continually mature and our minds need to keep pace with our changing abilities, at least that’s the hope. Superb athletes generally retire somewhere in their 30s, depending upon the sport. The idea is when all of us begin to slow down from our peak, we also begin to sense the subtle, shifting dynamic between our awareness and our bodies’ abilities. We don’t have much choice regarding our bodies, but the idea for the mind is to always remain agile.

I have had a daily yoga practice for 25 years and been a dedicated runner much longer than that. I always considered these disciplines a way of slowing the body clock, moving forward with some grace. Oh, I can’t leave out my meditation, sitting on a cushion with the idea of continually learning, while my body very slowly contracts. Now, what happens when our body sends powerful signals about the limits of its abilities, sometimes for basic things?

Up in Koke‘e, I was reminded by my missteps that New Mexico was a long time ago. I have felt the change in my running over the decades and long ago traded distance for time. However, this particular hike got my attention. I am not sure how often any of us look at ourselves from the perch of time, but it is always close by, whether we think about it or not.

It is incredibly easy to overreact and I could blanket myself in a coat of caution, but that is not the lesson. There are countless trails available to all of us. We need to honor time and not be its prisoner. It is beautiful out there.

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