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Mindful hike to Petgill Lake

Mindful Hiking to Petgill Lake

Join us in the Spring of 2019

We'll hike the 10 km round trip together both in silence and in friendly chatter. We will stop along the way for well timed dharma talks and mindful instructions. The practice will emphasize  mindfulness of the living and breathing things around you, as well as your own moving body. Limited to 10 hikers and one leader.



What we'll  do

You'll learn how to use your mindfulness to "tap into" the peace and serenity that comes from hiking and standing in the mountains. 

If you're active and feel the need to move in the outdoors - and you want to explore mindfulness at the same time, join us for this day in the mountains. This group will be limited to 10 hikers plus one instructor. We will meet at Murrin Park along the Sea to Sky highway in the morning and be back in the city for Sunday dinner. 

A different kind of retreat

This is a different kind of Daylong Dharma Retreat. While there have been mindful walks in Vancouver, this is a Mindful Hike. What's the difference? During the hike to Petgill Lake there will be stretches of trail where you'll be lifting your knee above your hip as you progress up the hill. You don't need to be a professional athlete and we'll all start together as friends, and finish together as friends. But there will be sweating on this trip. The elevation gain is 885 meters and you'll need to use your hands to get up the trail a few times. Think of it this way, can you jog 10km in 60 minutes or so? If so, this is suitable for you. I will offer less steep hikes in the future.

As a group

We will examine Buddhist impermanence alone the way and practice the joy of being in body. We'll come together as a moving sangha (community of like minded people) caring for and looking after each other, just as we'll care for and respect the forest we'll be moving in.


Community is a crucial element in mindfulness practice and we'll coming together as a group.

Group leader

James Lowe is a Community Dharma Leader and a Spirit Rock Teacher in Training. He has 20 years of teaching experience and over ten years of counselling experience. 


He has a Leadership Certificate from the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) based in Wyoming and has taught and lead Triathletes.


This trip will require a waiver and each hiker will need to be self-sufficient and properly equipped. There is no administrative fee but Dana (or donation to the teacher) is greatly appreciated. More information to come.

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Mindful practice in the wilderness

Intention for the day

What it'll feel like ...

We are going to bring our mind's eye or awareness to our bodies moving through the wilderness. This may get intense because of the terrain, but some people might like and need this to really get concentrated. We want to feel the flow of our legs, lungs and heart moving in synchronicity as we breath the deep clean air of the mountains. The body is a fluid entity ingesting food and water while expelling energy and sweat. Once we establish our sense of flow, we'll turn our awareness to the environment around us and seek to feel the vibrancy of all living things. We want to feel the peace, the life, and the freshness all around us.

What you need to know about mindfulness ...

In buddhism one of the central principles is change. And this means each moment changes to a new moment. Our bodies, thoughts and emotions are in constant change and because of this, so too is our identity or personality. The insight here is this: because the root of who or what we are is changing, we can let go of trying to "maintain or hold up our identity." If we let go of our identity and thus the expectations that stem from it, then we can more easily experience the current moment without wanting, avoiding or distracting ourselves. At this point, the current moment becomes rich and meaningful by itself. In buddhism there are many different ways to deepen this essential insight. We're using the wilderness to help us apply this principle.

What we're going to do ...

We're going to introduce ourselves to each other. We are going to start out as friends and end as friends. In other words, this shouldn't turn into a competition. We want to practice care for the wilderness and care for each other. We'll go easy to warm up our bodies first and notice what kind of sounds the highway is causing. After 20 minutes or so, we'll stop and maybe take off some layers so we don't get wet from sweat. As we continue to move upwards we'll focus our attention on our legs, lungs and hearts. As we move towards the lake we'll stop to "take a moment" in which we'll check in with ourselves and notice how this moment has changed from the last moment. The aim is to develop our focus without the mind cluttering itself by comparing or worrying. 

As we get deeper into the forest, I'll start to direct our awareness to the wilderness around us. I'll prompt you to notice what you're feeling and thinking and encourage you to tap into the peacefulness of the mountains.

I don't know how quickly we will be moving as a group, but we will snack along the way and have lunch at the lake. Likely we'll take 30-45 minutes for lunch (so we don't get cold or tight) and then head back down. The intention is to be home for dinner. 

What to bring


1-2 litres of water

Or whatever kind of drink you like. Try not to bring glass bottles.



Bring a sandwich or some kind of carbohydrate replacement. There is 885 meters of elevation gain so you might need to replace some energy.


On the trail

We will be taking quiet moments on the trail here and there. So bring some energy bars, fruit or trail mix.

Base layer

Quick dry shirt, not cotton. Bring an extra to change into at the top.

Good shoes

It is always safest to bring full-on hiking boots. I will. Good hikers or runners.


A fleece or puffy insulated jacket to keep warm during lunch or being still.


I'll probably wear shorts but I'll bring pants to start with. Just not cotton. 

Cool layer

A long sleeve running shirt that's between a t-shirt and fleece top.


A touque and a ball cap or sun hat. It did get cold Sunday when I was there.

Rain layer

Because we live on the Wet Coast. It can always rain or get cloudy.

Bug Juice

Or light wind jacket and pant to keep bugs off if we sit in the forest.

We'll meet at Murrin Lake parking lot at 9:00am. The lot is 2km past Britannia Beach. Look for the Murrin Park signs as soon as you head up the hill from Britannia Beach.

Park close to the parking lot entrance.

There are outhouses at Murrin Park but no tap water.

How donations work in buddhism

You may be new to the idea of donations in buddhism. If so, here's a primer.

When this style of buddhism was brought to North America, the young teachers at the time were trying to replicate the social practices they learned in Asia. Over there, the culture is to regularly give food and money to the monastery. From the ancient practices monks and nuns would walk through the town with their food bowl. As they walk by peoples kitchen, villagers would freely put food in their bowl. Then the monastics would return to the monastery and have their one meal for the day. This practice of donating is a part of asian culture. In North America we don't ever see monks and nuns walking around with an empty bowl looking to be nourished. But when the early American teachers brought this kind of buddhism to North America they also brought this practice with them. In our current times this donation system is beautiful, controversial, and problematic.

Why is it important? The practice of giving without any strings attached to the outcome is a state of mind. This kind of generosity (or Dana as it's called in buddhism) is necessary for each person's mindfulness practice. In short, we need to be generous and give our minds and emotions patience and care without any expectations of a return. As a parallel, if we give externally through donations we are also practicing generosity. In this way, the practice of generosity is deepened internally by giving externally.

Exchange through donation is pretty foreign in North America which is based on a "get what you pay for system." The practice of Dana often leaves people scratching their head and asking, "OK, well how much? Or what's this worth?" This is a very difficult question because how much is peace, contentment and enlightenment worth? You can't put a price on these priceless qualities.

In the end, there is some kind of exchange in the process of buddhism. The organization or teacher offers a setting and some teachings, and the practitioners offer support. The question is two fold: 1) what can the practitioner afford to offer based on their current situation and 2) what resources has the organization or teacher invested in the exchange? 

Donations by the practitioner is based on what they can donate from a healthy place psychologically and financially. Dana needn't be based on guilt or confusion but rather care and a balanced sense of appreciation. Certainly debt should not be incurred by the donation. If the practitioner considers the context, this reflection may help them find a suitable range to donate. Buddhist teachers often invest ten to fifteen years of personal practice and study before they are asked to teach. This includes many months of retreats and hours of daily practice. Time is allocated to this kind of life and the opportunity costs mount in unmeasured ways. In practical terms, organizations need to cover software, hardware, data, transportation and facility costs to bring a retreat or class to practitioners. 

Some organizations describe a suggested amount to help practitioners decide how much to donate. For our mindful hike, this is the first time I am offering this and I don't have a suggestion. To guide you, what would the "get what you pay for system" charge for a leader with specific training and experience on a similar day? Then consider what is healthy for you to donate psychologically and financially. The ultimate goal is to have a balanced sense of appreciation for yourself and the organization or teacher.

I will have a donation box available at the end of the hike. Cash, cheque, e-transfers and Visa are all viable forms of dana. Thank you.

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