A composer who has created a series of meditative events meant to tap into mindfulness and self-reflection is leading a hike based on this very concept this weekend in San Diego.
This Sunday, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., composer and pianist Murray Hidary will lead a "SilentHike" up Cowles Mountain off Golfcrest Drive in San Diego’s East County.
Hidary told NBC 7 the group will meet at the base of the mountain at 3 p.m. sharp. There, participants will be given wireless headphones to borrow during the hike. As participants trek up the 3-mile path, they’ll wear those headphones and listen to a series of music, words, and verbal cues from the pianist, who speaks on a microphone during the event.
"I’ll guide the group – but not in a 'turn left or turn right' sort of way. Rather, I’ll be guiding an exploration of one’s internal landscape," he explained.
The participants are supposed to remain silent during the entire hike, just listening to the music and words. Hidary said the sounds inside those headphones aim to immerse the hikers in the moment and connect them to the experience – and to themselves – on a deep level.
Hidary wears the headphones, too.
"We do it cohesively, as a group," he said.
Once they reach the top of Cowles Mountain, Hidary said the group will remove their headphones and get into a circle where, finally, they can talk.
They’ll discuss how they’re feeling after the music meditation experience.
"Afterwards, almost everyone feels connected and a sense of belonging, love and togetherness," Hidary said in an interview with NBC 7 Tuesday.
Hidary said the post-hike circle is all about finding – and truly feeling – that universal connection to both people, landscapes, and the world.
"We go beneath the surface and find that human experience that connects us all," he explained.
The composer called the hikes a "space for contemplation and self-reflection."
Hidary has been taking his SilentHike events to cities across the U.S. since late July. Over the past 6 weeks, he’s led events in places in like New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago, Austin, San Francisco and now, San Diego.
San Diego marks the 20th city in his coast-to-coast trek; this SilentHike tour will end Sept. 21 in Los Angeles, which is where Hidary lives.
Hidary said he’s been visiting San Diego for years and knew the city had to be on his list of stops. He scouted locations for this SilentHike and decided Cowles Mountain – with its breathtaking views at the top – was the perfect location.
"It’s going to be a great backdrop for this type of experience," he added.
Hidary said he came up with the SilentHike concept about a year-and-a-half ago through his company, MindTravel, which uses "musical meditation" across physical activities like swimming, rowing, walking and even "silent" concerts on beaches.
The composer founded MindTravel five years ago for deeply personal reasons. Hidary said he was looking for a better way to connect with himself through his music.
And, in that moment, he used music to get through the most difficult time in his life: the tragic death of his sister.
His grief, he said, was indescribable.
"I didn’t know how to move on with my life," he said. "I realized I needed to get one foot in front of the other, slowly."
And, so, he hiked.
He made music. He listened. He reflected.
And, he shared with others.
Hidary said people from all walks of life have joined his hikes.
Although hikers put on those headphones and stay quiet, and it’s all a "very internal experience," Hidary said they’re all listening to the same thing – and doing it together – so, there’s also sense of community.
"We’re deeply alone, but also together," he explained.
In the end, even after not speaking for a while, Hidary said his SilentHike groups connect in a way that doesn’t necessarily require a whole lot of words.
"Nature is healing," he said. "Music is healing. And so is being in community."
Hidary said his SilentHike events are free because he wants the experience to be accessible to anyone – especially those who might need the meditation most.
Hidary supports SilentHike through the MindTravel Foundation, the nonprofit arm of his company. If they wish, SilentHike participants are welcome to donate to the foundation after their hike, to keep these types of events moving across the nation.
Hidary also sells his meditation music at the events, in case people want to recreate the hike on their own. His hope, he said, is that he can give people the tools to tap into the experience again, at any time.