At a certain point, you say to the woods, to the sea, to the mountains, the world, Now I am ready. Now I will be wholly attentive.” Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk
I loved this post by Koa Whittingham on the “nicely plausible” – exactly – pop psychology idea to “Just get up early”… For me, the closest alternative to getting up early has been to start using the margins of the day more; the slivers of time between things.
One surprisingly useful margin I have found, where it’s possible to practice snippets of mindfulness at least, is in the mini-walks of the day. Nothing major; just the almost invisible moments of walking we all do anyway, to the car, bathroom, kitchen, through grocery aisles and so on (and further afield if it can be fitted in).
There are many ways to walk mindfully, but here are a few, whether it’s a longer walk you are doing or just a few steps:
- If you walk from your car to your office in the morning, you might notice the crunch of gravel under your feet, the coolness of the air after the cosiness of the car, the bag strap on your shoulder. Breathing in the morning air, perhaps sending a quick kind wish to everyone who is starting their day.
- Mindful Magazine has an article and audio here on one method of walking mindfully.
- This practice, written by Russ Harris, is a way to send kind wishes to the people and creatures that you see along the way – in much the same spirit that we might wish someone a wholehearted “happy birthday”. You could abbreviate the practice to a simple “May you experience joy today”, to the postie as he passes by; or “May you stay safe”, to the ducklings waddling to a pond.
- Walking mindfully can also be a way to connect with a spiritual or religious tradition you might have. This meditation called “The Beauty Way” is from the Navajo (Diné) tradition. You could shorten it to one or two lines or words:
I walk with beauty before me. I walk with beauty behind me.
I walk with beauty below me. I walk with beauty above me.
I walk with beauty around me.
In beauty all day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons, may I walk.
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With dew about my feet, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
Awareness is a conduit, not a solution – Jonathan Fields
If you were to give mindful walking a try, maybe even take your next ten or so steps with gentle and open awareness, why might this be helpful?
I ask because ACT encourages us to be gently curious about the function of what we do, if we are to make our lives more workable, meaningful, helpful. As Dr Rob Archer says in this wonderful article, ACT positions mindfulness too as having a purpose. It calls us to use our attention skilfully, in ways that might help the world. Reading Rob’s post is THE best antidote ever, if “mindfulness” has become at all clichéd, annoying, indulgent, boring, meaningless for you.
So, right now my head feels foggy after working at the computer for a long while. I know that if one of my children walks in and talks to me, I will look at them, dazed, and only half hear what they are saying. It saddens me so much when this happens, and is definitely not in line with being the mother I want to be. To be fully with them when I join them outside soon, I am setting the intention now to take a few deep, slow breaths when I leave the study, noticing the ground under my feet as I walk, and connecting just briefly with how I can be more of the mum I want to be when I get out in to the garden. Having practised mindful walking, it will be that much easier to clear this pea soup head and get present for my kids.
PS at the end of the day it may still be necessary, as Koa says, to make friends with the idea that it’s impossible to do everything that one wants to, margins and all…
PPS it’s not possible to always be as aware and on purpose as I may seem to be in the example above. If you ask my family they will confirm that often I am not! And maybe it’s my age :/ but remembering to do things can be the trickiest part. Now, there was something I needed to do after this… 🤔