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The Grouse Grind

Last week, I was in the beautiful city of Vancouver in Canada. A little way away from the city is a 2.9km trail up the face of Grouse mountain, commonly referred to as "Mother Nature's Stairmaster" and the actual climb up is called "The Grouse Grind".

Once I heard about it, naturally I had to do it.

It takes 1.5-2 hours on average to climb up and pleasant weather helped me do it a little quicker than the average. Five quarters of an hour is by no means a tough hike, but what makes it hard is the constant climbing of huge stairs for over an hour.

This little climb reminded me of other hikes that I have been on and the thoughts that go through one's head as they do a hike.

I did this one alone, so as I climbed, I had no cellphone connectivity (digitally disconnected from the world) and all I had for company was my thoughts and my senses. Al through, I noticed the tall trees and the lay of the ground, the soreness of my muscles, the quickened beating of my heart, and reflected on several thoughts as they came to my mind in no particular order - the reason I was visiting Vancouver, my bike ride around Stanley Park the previous day, among other things.

At the end of the trail, there is a restaurant at the top with outdoor seating and a great view of Vancouver city from that elevation.

A hike is the classic analogy to drive home the point that the journey is what we ought to relish a lot more than the destination. A good hike is one that is challenging and helps bring out our physical attributes and fitness by pushing on the boundaries. It helps us appreciate the extent to which we can push ourselves if we set our minds to it. It shows us that if we have overcome a challenging hike, the destination feels good irrespective of whether we are staring down at a beautiful island or if we are staring into thick white fog.

Pilgrimages used to play this role before. When it took days of effort venturing into unknown territories to arrive at a temple, the journey made the people that made the pilgrimage better. It helped them arrive at realizations that they would otherwise not have had. It helped them be reborn in that sense. The actual temple visit at the end of it was inconsequential to the change seen in the person.

Today, we often have it backwards. Both in terms of pilgrimages and in terms of everything else that we do in life. We find shortcuts to the destination, thinking that getting there is the agent of change.

While what brings about a change in us is the experience along the journey.

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