The tricky 3-R?s of trail running and spiritual growth

Posted by Karen M. Wyatt on November 11, 2011 at 6:35 PM


I have the good fortune to be able to exercise outdoors nearly all year long because I live in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado. In the summer and fall I can jog or hike on trails right outside my door, while in the winter and spring I snowshoe on those same trails through the Gore Range.

But there is a downside to running on mountain trails which I refer to as the 3-R’s. Over the years I have sustained numerous injuries, including sprained ankles, scraped knees and elbows, torn hamstrings and bruised shins because of the 3-R’s: Rocks, Ruts and Roots. The danger usually arises because I lose my focus and get tripped up (literally) by one of these hazards on the trail.

A few weeks ago while I was jogging down the mountain it occurred to me that spiritual growth also has its 3-R’s that threaten to trip us as we make our way along this path. And if we lose our focus on the journey we can find ourselves injured and struggling to recover from one of these hazards:


The “rocks” on the path of spiritual growth are the unexpected challenges that get thrown at us: illness, loss of a job, the break-up of a relationship or the death of a loved-one. These are major events that always take us by surprise and can quickly bring us to our knees and exhaust our resources. While we can’t prevent them from happening, we can prepare ourselves for these difficulties by having a spiritual practice like meditation or prayer that builds our resilience and improves our coping ability.

The truth is that these major disruptive occurrences along the spiritual path often open the door to tremendous transformation and growth. So take heart if you are in the midst of such a “rocky” crisis and embrace it fully; for you will eventually find a way to recover your balance.


The “ruts” that threaten us on our paths are the limiting beliefs and habits that we fall into without thinking. When we allow ourselves to believe things like “I always have bad luck” or “Things never work out right for me” we trap ourselves in a vicious cycle of negative energy that prevents us from moving forward. Likewise, when we resist change in our lives we can get stuck in old unproductive behaviors.

To get out of your “ruts” you must first be aware of them and recognize how easily you fall into these patterns of thinking and acting. Then decide on a new, more positive way of being and keep reminding yourself to take this point of view. You are likely to get tripped up by these “ruts” numerous times before you can successfully avoid them, but keep working at it and don’t give up.


Finally, the “roots” that interfere with our spiritual growth are the old wounds of past trauma, particularly from childhood, that we carry with us. Often these old issues lie hidden deep within and go unrecognized until they are triggered by some current event. When this happens we are likely to regress back to immature behavior patterns that can make difficult situations much worse.

To avoid getting tripped up by your “roots,” it is necessary to work on them constantly, digging them up and exposing them to the light of your spiritual awareness. Then you will have a chance to heal those wounds and free up the energy that has been invested in keeping them alive.

So, keep your focus and remember the 3-R’s as you journey along your path. May you use them to help you grow and, when you do get tripped up, may you quickly recover and begin again!

Categories: Spiritual Practice, Transformation, Sports

Copyright ©2010 Karen Wyatt, MD

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