A Walk in the Park Brings Joyful Awareness

I’m resistant. I don’t want to move. I’m spiraling down. I just want to stay put. I notice my lethargy and a dipping of my mood, for no apparent reason. A caving in sort of feeling. I know I ‘should’ move, but I don’t want to. I notice the ‘should’ and I notice it is justified. The tiny feeling of guilt I have of just sitting here and looking at social media is not healthy. I know to get rid of my guilt I can do one of 2 things. Ignore it, and it will eventually go away, or I can do what the guilt is telling me to do, in this case take a walk. I should walk, I want to sit. A balance of shoulds and wants. Past experience tells me I’ll get a boost if I walk and it also tells me I’ll regret this at days end if I don’t walk on this beautiful fall day in my favorite park. Wisdom speaks. Short term gratification vs long-term satisfaction. Yes, staying put will feel so good in the short term, and sometimes, that’s exactly what I need to do. But taking a walk will serve me well in the long-run, and being a couch potato won’t. Wisdom typically takes the long view.

I glance out the window. I notice the shining sun and some autumn leaves dancing in the wind. I say yes. I move. I step outside on this sunny, unusually warm and humid fall day. I begin my steep ascent to the top of the hill. It’s about a 3 minute climb. Heart rate speeds up, my breathing is more labored. In another 5 minutes I’m at the park. Another short but steep climb and I reach my favorite trail. I notice that I’m smiling and walking fast. Feeling joyful. I always do. I feel it in my heart space, this joy. It feels like a welling inside of me, like a flower blooming, and if I pay attention, it fills my being and I notice I am smiling.

I’m  an introvert. I can so easily get lost in thought and not even notice the surrounding beauty. If I’m not mindful, I’d never experience this joyous moment. I can get so caught up in my own story, in my own ruminating thoughts of past events or future scenarios or whatever drama is going on in my world at the time. So in my attempt to cultivate mindfulness on my walks, I’ve gotten into the habit of stopping now and then to savor what is before me. To notice what is – the smells, the feel of the air, the sounds, the scenery-and my internal response. This habit was further ingrained in me almost out of necessity when I hiked the John Muir Trail and had to stop just so I could catch my breath. Sometimes I take a picture, and later I move it to my folder labeled “walks”. Always there for me to look at again and ‘mindfully’ savor the memory. All we have is the moment we live in right now and it takes practice to cultivate living more mindfully. One of my favorite definitions of mindfulness is from Jon Kabit-Zinn. “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Now is as good as time as any to practice being present.

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