There’s no place to hide illusions when you’re grinding up seven kilometers of rocky trail.

The number of illusions that I surround myself with every day of my existence is staggering.

The illusion of the past, the innumerable stories I’ve created about who I was, and how I became who I am today. Most of what I remember is erroneous. If something happened more than a year ago, the likelihood of my remembering it with any accuracy is slim. Its illusion.

The illusion of the future, the even more populous scenarios that play out in my head about the days, weeks, and months to come, are even less likely. Tomorrow is a mystery, next week impossible to imagine with precision. And yet I spend vast amounts of time, and huge amounts of emotional energy, allowing the dreamscape of tomorrow to dominate my present.

Jocelyn Hill is a good grind for working through illusions. As I start up the long, steep incline, I look down at my feet, picking their way over stones and roots. Breathing hard, feeling the burn of lactic acid in my legs, I burry myself in illusions, anything to avoid the present. Because the present is sweat, throbbing muscles, tearing lungs.

The day, which only moments ago was threatening rain throughout, has turned to sun, and as legs and lungs fall into a rhythm, I realize I’ve not been actually seeing the green world around me for the last kilometre.

I re-centre myself in present moment awareness.

This is the only reality, this is all that is real. Right now. This world that is before us in this very minute. Even as I write these lines, my run up Jocelyn hill on Friday, two days in the past, is illusion. The muscle fiber it built remains as a testament to its occurrence, as does the remaining stiffness in my knees, but otherwise, its only a bit of neural energy stored somewhere in the recesses of my brain. Or in the wink between electrons.

I remember it was a good run. Hard. Emotionally and physically. I fought the illusions most of the way to the summit, seven kilometers and a thousand feet up from the trailhead. When I made the rocky dome I carried on, circling back via a route that provided inspiring views down, down, down to the Saanich Inlet far below, and to the green hills – many being scrapped clear for the Bear Mountain Resort – in the distance.

On the flight down, shirt off, sweat stinging my eyes, the wet leaves and branches whipping my body, I contemplated again the notion of illusions. I’ve been struggling with the concept of self referral this last month. Staying grounded in self referral is helping me manage my way through a tangle of emotions. Staying centred in self referral is teaching me to be happy regardless of what is happening outside my own centre, my own soul.

Getting lost in the illusion of past and present pulls me from my centre. Illusions distract me from self referral. Illusions create stories about my past, they call my ego to the fore and make it act out scenarios for the future. Staying focused on the present moment, the trail drilling past me, the scent of wet leaves in the air, the crispness of the air on my flesh, the feeling of my feet light on the rocks and bald roots: these things keep me centred. These things keep me aware of my own soul, and its connection to all that surrounds me. Near and far.

Two hours and fifteen minutes after setting out I am back at my car. I have no illusions the lessons learned on Jocelyn Hill will need to be relearned again.