By Yang Miang

I used to love trekking when I was younger and fitter. I trekked several Malaysian mountains during my University days. I enjoyed trekking because of the physical challenge, the closeness with nature, and the friendship with fellow trekkers. I also learned a lot about myself when I trekked.

Whenever I trekked, I realised that I was satisfied more easily. I was happy when there was no rain. I was relieved when I had a simple tent to sleep in. I was glad whenever I got to eat warm food. I was delighted when we got to see the sunrise. Although these can be easily achieved when I am in the city, in the comfort of my usual environment, being on a trek in the wilderness made these often taken-for-granted simple pleasures so precious and precarious. Such was the power of nature. 

Our man-made environment frequently causes us to have the illusion that we have control over so many things in life. We assume that we will wake up in the morning and that the air we breathe will always be breathable. We assume that the ground below us will always hold us. The reality is that we live because nature has provided the right set of conditions for us to live. The illusion of control makes us take things for granted and desire for more than we need. Being in the wild reminded me of the importance of being grateful for what we already have.

After becoming a Buddhist, I have realised to an even greater extent that many things are beyond our control and nothing lasts forever. This is the concept of impermanence, which also applies to our own mind. As I observe my mind, I have come to the realisation that it is constantly shifting and, at the same time, it tries to grab things that it has no real control over. One moment I can be very happy because of some positive remarks made by someone, and in the next moment, a negative remark can cause my mood to change almost instantaneously. I have learned that the internal impermanence of the mind and its tendency to grab and expect desired outcomes is a key reason for much of my unhappiness, frustration and suffering. 

We cannot take our physical well-being for granted. Similarly, we cannot take our inner peace for granted. True happiness and bliss come from the ability to observe the mind and not be led astray by the endless stream of thoughts. Hence, even though I seldom trek nowadays, I continue to experience the same sense of challenge. However, the sense of challenge is now spiritual in nature.