Travel

How The Mountains Are Secretly Teaching Us Stoicism

By on October 5, 2019

An overactive imagination can be both a blessing and a curse.  On the bright side, my imagination can spin a thousand of beautiful scenarios and visualize infinite possibilities in mere seconds. Even when I’m isolated in a cold and dark room, there’s never a dull or boring moment with my playful imagination.  While it often fills my mind with colors and positive energy, it can also pave the road to over thinking and anxiety. And, I had been dealing with anxiety, my entire life, creating conspiracies and imagining bloody scenarios. But, anxiety vanished slowly when I began traveling and hiking. Then, I learned the ultimate vaccine to anxiety: Stoicism.

The funny thing is, I’ve been practicing the central teachings of Stoicism even before I knew that it exists.

How The Mountains Are Secretly Teaching Us Stoicism

Stoicism is an ancient Hellenistic philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the 3rd century BC.  The goal of the Stoics is to attain inner peace by practicing self-control, overcoming adversity and being conscious of our impulses.

Additionally, the Stoics attain their inner peace by realizing our ephemeral nature as well as the short time allotted we have on earth.  

One day, as I was browsing the net, I bumped into an article that highlights the Stoic philosophy. Intrigued, I kept on reading, until I found out that I’ve been practicing the philosophy of Stoicism for over a year through my mountain escapades.  

In their own unique and special way, the Universe and Mother Nature have secretly taught me the ancient Stoicism philosophy. Thus far, it has been helping me live harmoniously and smash creative blocks.

And, in one of my recent Naga outdoor escapades, I realized just how the mountains, with their teachings, have unleashed my inner Stoic and zen. Although the hike was rather short, it did secretly teach us a few lessons in Stoicism.

09:39 AM

I always keep an open mind whenever I’m exploring the outdoors. With a relaxed itinerary and a go-with-the-flow attitude, the possibilities for adventure are always infinite.

The moment we arrived at our base, I saw the beauty of Mount Naupa and its surrounding hills. With glee and enthusiasm, I stared at it and thought of a million of ways to experience these mountains.

Mount Naupa

I took a deep breath, and silently said “Amor Fati” (love of one’s fate).

Like a follower of Stoicism, I relaxed, listed to the sounds of nature, and prepared myself for what was going to happen today.

Soon after, Beboy and Dian arrived to complete the cast that includes Cherry, Berny, Raul, sir Franz and me.

Once the guide arrived, we commenced on our hike to explore a hidden waterfall in Naga, Cebu.

At first, the hike seemed a walk in park with mild ascends and a well-established trail. As it turned out, though, it was just a warm-up a thrilling and a little challenging downhill hike.

Stoicism 101: Embrace misfortune  

We were all smiles as we were descending to a hidden waterfall in Naga. But, it wasn’t the breathtaking views or the fresh mountain air that made us giggle and laugh. Instead, it was the tough and slippery downhill trail to the flowing river that gave us bliss.

How The Mountains Are Secretly Teaching Us Stoicism
Photo by Dian

I watched my friends with fondness. They might not know it yet, but the mountains have already secretly taught them a lesson in Stoicism.

Embracing misfortune is an important lesson in Stoicism. And, in hiking, especially when venturing into less explored paths, misfortunes and mishaps are bound to happen.

There were no shortage of slips and misses on this segment of our hike.

Everyone, including me, had a not-so fabulous and fascinating moment on the trail.

As a matter of fact, we even had bruises and scars after our hike.

Still, our experiences in the mountains have taught us how to counteract any negative situation.

Thanks to our mountain explorations, we’ve learned how to turn misfortune and pain into learning and growth.

And, slowly, I’ve been infusing this lesson into my daily life. Though I still have a lot to go, I’m learning how to overcome the tribulations and trials of life with Stoic practices like hiking mountains.

How The Mountains Are Secretly Teaching Us Stoicism

After a thrilling downhill hike, we arrived at the base of the dried up waterfall.

With barely any water flowing from the top, the waterfall wasn’t as majestic as it usually is.

Curious, Beboy and I climbed the waterfall, hoping to find a trail that would lead us to an awe-inspiring peak or hill.

How The Mountains Are Secretly Teaching Us Stoicism
Photos from Beboy

On the verge of reaching the top, we had to stop because it was a bit dangerous for the whole gang to climb it.

So, we went back to the base and do some river trekking on this part of Naga.

And, the hike was fun…to say the least.

Sh*t happens, when you’re hiking. And, there was a lot funny and crazy moments, as we were making our way to our next stop, which was destination unknown.

How The Mountains Are Secretly Teaching Us Stoicism
Photos from Beboy

I think it was a whole lot tougher than the trail we hiked earlier.

Some say that Mount Babag and Spartan Trail are two of the toughest trails in Cebu. Obviously, they hadn’t been to this area on Cebu island.

We had to be resourceful, using grass and tree branches to ensure we finish it safely.

One false move here and we’d end up scrambling on the way down to the river.

Spearheaded by our guides, we followed the river, until we arrived at a place called Crasher (not sure about the spelling or real name) in Naga, Cebu.

A river in Naga, Cebu

From there, we ate our lunch, and looked for a trail that would lead us our favorite hill in Naga, Cebu.

How The Mountains Are Secretly Teaching Us Stoicism

And, there were times when we weren’t sure if we took the right trail. Even so, we kept walking, until we found some important clues.

02:16 PM

As we were taking a breather under a shady tree, we took a look at the trail in front of us.

It was steep and pretty exposed, meaning it was going to be a little physically demanding.

How The Mountains Are Secretly Teaching Us Stoicism

Earlier, we survived a slightly perilous hike. Now, we were about to embark on an uphill climb to somewhere unknown.

We had a hunch that we’d end up at the place we called “a hill without a name” in Naga, Cebu. Still, we weren’t exactly sure that was where we’d end up.   

Even with the imminent challenge, our spirits remained upbeat.

The mountains have taught us to embrace spontaneity and the art of Que Sera Sera adventures.

How The Mountains Are Secretly Teaching Us Stoicism

Amor Fati and Stoicism. Those were the words inside my head on this segment of our hike.

Climbing it was, of course, not easy, especially since the haze from Indonesia’s fire was making it hard for us to breath.

It wasn’t, however, new to us. After all, exploring mountains have toughened us not just physically, but also mentally. And, in essence, it has taught us the lessons of Stoicism.

We kept on climbing, until we bumped into a bunch of harmless dogs.

Moments later, we took another breather before hitting the last ascends.

I thought we were done with all the challenges.

While hitting the slopes, another sh*t happened.

Out of nowhere, a not-so friendly young cow suddenly chased Beboy and Dian on a steep slope.

I know they felt. I had been chased by cows and even a stallion before.

It’s an adrenaline rush like no other.

I’m pretty sure they had a mix of emotions while the cow was chasing us.

When the cow finally retreated, everyone couldn’t stop laughing. Even from afar, I couldn’t help myself, but laugh at this weird experience.

How The Mountains Are Secretly Teaching Us Stoicism

In the school of Stoicism, sh*t happens, and you just have to f*cking embrace it.

On the way to the top, I caught sight of Mount Naupa.

A flashback of a foggy and rainy day in Mount Naupa, then, came into mind.  

2 years ago

Sh*t happens! Expecting a mesmerizing view at Mount Naupa, some were a little disappointed to reach it with the seemingly endless pour.

All we saw was the white fog blanketing the hills and mountains of Naga.

“The rain won’t stop soon”, said Raul.

Despite the heavy downpours and muddy trail, we didn’t let all the setbacks ruin our mood.

We chatted, and some even danced under the rain.

I was still new to hiking, when we hiked Mount Naupa on a rainy day. Even so, the mountains have already secretly taught a valuable lesson in Stoicism

And that was:

Focus on what you can control. Accept what you can’t

You can’t control the weather. There’s no piece of state-of-the-art equipment that can alter the directions of the wind or stop raindrops from falling.  

And, there are no mutant superheroes that can create storms and whirlwinds either.

There are a couple of ways to deal with rain in the mountains.

You can complain and rant like a pessimistic mother f*cker.

Or,like a practitioner of Stoicism, you can go with the flow and focus on what you can control.

In our Mount Naupa hike, I knew I couldn’t manipulate the weather.

Mount Naupa

But, there were things I could control to make the hike memorable for my friends. With my experience in hiking, I knew there’s always a silver lining or a rainbow after the rain.

So, I asked my friends to wait patiently for the rain to stop.

Truthfully, we didn’t see a rainbow that day. But, we saw something grander and more visually enticing.

Naupa sea of clouds

02:47 PM

I could feel it.

I could feel we were a few feet away from the hill without a name in Naga.

At first, I thought the trail was leading us to a neighboring mountain. The closer we got, the more I realized we were bound for our secret precious hill.

Getting to the top was tough. We scaled a 70-degree incline with slippery rocks and soil.

Lately, this trail has been used by mountain bike daredevils, looking for the ultimate thrill.

I wonder how they survived their descent.

Thrilled, I ran my way to the top and was enthralled by the wondrous panoramas.

Absolutely gorgeous! The view never gets old.

All of a sudden, the vastness of space reminded me of another lesson in Stoicism.

Memento Mori (remember you must die)

Death is knocking on our door, every day. Keep in mind that we all start to die from the moment we were born.

The clock is ticking, and every minute that passes by, we are getting closer to the inevitable.  

And, whenever I reach the peak, I always think of death.

It’s our destiny and an inescapable, universal commonality. Everyone dies – stupid, brilliant, peasants, kings, politicians and beggars.

In Stoicism, the point of “memento mori” is not to promote fear or be morbid, but to inspire, clarify and motivate.

Philosophers of Stoicism, through this reminder, encourage us to treat each day as a gift and remind ourselves to not waste time on the vain and trivial.

Perched on top of the hill, I watch in amazement at the ridges and mountains of Naga and Minglanilla.

I saw vastness.

It will take a while before I could explore all these mountains. On the east side of the hill, I saw the cities of Naga and Cebu as well as the island of Bohol.

Life is short and the world is vast.

And, that’s why I don’t waste time on small talks and trivial things.

I have a beautiful world to explore and a universe to study.

I can’t afford to waste any more time.

Death is coming, and we should treat each day as a present from the Universe.

Soon after, the rest of the gang arrived at the top of the hill.

With the sun looking down at us ferociously, we were all in need of a break.

Soaking up the fresh mountain air, we talked about today’s experience. Afterwards, Beboy pointed Mount Naupa, which is basically where we started our hike.

And, we were all amazed by our feat and the new trail we’ve unlocked for ourselves.

Once again, a lesson in Stoicism flashed into my mind.

Seek your own applause

No one knows this trail, but us.

And, only a few are familiar with this hill in Naga, Cebu.

It’s relatively unknown, and nowhere as popular as some of the internationally renowned tourist spots.

And, it’s not a major climb either.

In other words, nobody will applause us for what we’ve done today.

Nobody will think what we do is relevant.  

It’s okay, though.

We don’t give a f*ck what others think, anyway.

The unsung mountains have taught us to appreciate the small things and places that are unknown to mainstream media.

What’s more, we hike not to gain the approval of others, but to appease ourselves.

We venture into the unknown to quench our thirst for adventure.

And, we hike to feed our insatiable appetite for wonder. 

In the age of social media, there are some people who travel to popular places to gain the approval of others.

Personally, I think there’s nothing wrong with it, as long as you’re doing it in healthy doses. After all, the need to be loved and admired is human nature.

But, we shouldn’t solely base our happiness on the approval of others.

You shouldn’t be overly concerned of your Instagram followers.

You should not kiss someone’s ass to get their approval.

And, you should not spend a great deal of time trying to please others.

Stoicism and the mountains teach us to seek our own applause.

As I’ve said earlier, Stoicism encourages us to focus on things that we can control and not on things on we don’t have control.

Can we control the opinions of others? Absolutely not! So, stop trying to be everything to everyone, and focus on what really makes you happy.

4:51 PM

It was time to go. With the sky turning into pink and gold, we exited the hill, and began descending to the highway.

This exit route is so familiar to us. For the past year, we’ve used to this route in Pangilatan, Naga for our hikes of a cause. Once again, another lesson in Stoicism popped into mind.

Live for others

The thing is, we just don’t hike for our pleasure. Years of hiking mountains have pushed our boundaries and urged us to live for others.

After meeting the less fortunate people and exploring the remote areas, we’ve made a vow to help people who need us.  

And, there have been plenty of hikers in Cebu who have learned this lesson in Stoicism.

The best lesson in Stoicism

Amor Fati in

There’s a hill in Pangilatan that was constantly luring me. Even though we’ve hiked this trail on numerous occasions, we have yet to set foot on this hill. Somehow, I felt like today was the perfect time to visit it.

And, somehow, I felt like the Universe orchestrated everything for one grand finale.

All those scars, hurdles and mishaps were part of a bigger plan for that day. Heck, even the raging cow was part of it.

If we arrived at hill earlier, we would have taken a longer route to Magdook.

And, if the waterfall had abundant waters, we would have spent a great deal of time savoring its fresh cold waters.

Even though we’re not Stoicism philosophers, we embraced the concept of Amor Fati and all the challenges along the way.

It has been written in the stars, and everything was a set up for this.

And we were rewarded with a stunning sunset view.

Photo by Beboy

With my over imaginative and over-thinking mind, it’s no wonder I suffered panic attacks before. But, thanks to the mountains and Stoicism, I’ve learned to go with the flow and follow where the Universe takes me.

As they say, fate leads the willing and drags along the reluctant.

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