Did you know that the average adult spends about 47% of his waking time not paying attention, it is said that we are less happy when we`re not paying attention. But don`t despair, there is good news, paying attention can be learned and be cultivated through simple practices.
I have spent some time in my garden this spring, making room for new growth and awareness. I even entitled myself as the mindful gardener. One thing that caught my mind as I was spring cleaning outside, was that my mind didn’t wander, I was here at this moment. You know all those troublesome thoughts that may distract our progress? they weren’t there. How amazing, I kept on with raking the leaves from last fall, cut dead branches of my bushes and plants, and even made a little stone sculpture that I have in front of my herb garden. Are you also one of those people that have the need to keep things tidy? and then your mind is tidy as well? Well, I’m sorta like that. Even though the purpose of meditation is to stay unattached from the outer world and what’s going on, I do like to have it tidy around me, I love this new addition to my garden, as it serves as a reminder that we need balance in our lives.
“I am going to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen” – Anne Lamott.
I couldn’t have said it better than Anne myself, how lovely it is to feel the warmth of the sun on your bare skin. Finally, we can all celebrate life and that our cheeks have been warmed by the sunshine that at last has arrived.
Plan For a day out in Nature, The Mindful Way …
Pack your lunch and plan for a long and mindful breath walk out in nature. If it is too far, find yourself a bench to sit on in the city in a park. Spend some time and find that special spot where you can feel right at home. Remembering that we as human beings are closely connected to the earth and that we get a lot of energy through the earth, is also something to reflect upon. Find a big rock that you can sit on. if it’s not too cold then take off your socks and feel the cool green grass between your toes and then, close your eyes. Feel how you are interconnected with everything, the air you can feel going through your hair, take notice of how the rock you are sitting on by touching it with your fingertips, over the rugged texture and how it feels. As you close your eyes notice how the architecture of your breathing is, pay attention to the in-breath, maybe you can feel the inhale stronger on the left nostril rather than the right? Imagine your lungs expanding as they were big angel wings in your chest as the fresh air of spring is invited into your body. Pay attention to your surroundings and mentally count 5 sounds that you hear, (f.example the birds chirping, the water in the stream, some hikers nearby and their footsteps crackling on the ground, the wind etc..) Once you have those 5 things you can hear, also pay attention to how they make you feel? Does your mind wander with mental images? Try to observe your emotions and set everything else aside for this meditative assignment. Sometimes it can feel daunting to close your eyes in big spaces as it makes you feel vulnerable, but if you take some time to find a spot that is just right, meaning safe, you will feel more comfortable practicing meditation out in nature.
How to Eat Mindfully?
Eating mindfully can have a positive impact on your mental well being.
– Read the study on ScienceDirect
Take your backpack and take out your lunch and open the crumbling paper that your sandwich is wrapped in. Listen to the sounds that the paper is making. Get lost in the sounds of unwrapping the present moment and bring your attention to the senses when you have your sandwich in your hands, the touch of the soft bread and all the different textures, the rounded edges which are harder and the softer middle part. Notice your craving and your desire to eat. Take a bite of the lunch you brought with mindful attention and chew it slowly while your taste buds on your tongue get a treat from the tongues zone, bitter, sour, salty or sweet.
Sometimes we tend to forget to pay gratitude to the food that we eat. I myself have been a vegetarian and have been now for 4 years, eating for me personally isn’t just about getting all the nutrients my mind and body needs, but its also about being mindful of what I eat and how the food that I eat has been processed and of course starting off with a moment of thankfulness that I have the ability to serve my mind and body with delicious food.
Nature and Mental Wellbeing
For many people with anxiety and depression, it can be challenging to even think about socializing with people or even stepping out of the door. It was like that for me at least. Did you know that every fourth to the fifth person in the population experiences an anxiety disorder throughout life? And it affects twice as many women as men. During life, about 5-6% of the population experience at least one episode of generalized anxiety disorder in relation to NHI.
If I could help just ONE person suffering from depression or anxiety I would be so grateful for having done that. It would actually make my heart sing. I have had my anxiety diagnosis for a couple of years as of now and believe me, it is a hard battle. Sometimes it makes me so mad that I even have this disease because I always want to do better, feel calmer and have the ability to control how I feel. That’s at least how I believe many people also would like to feel. I used to walk around the park at least once a day and listen to audiobooks, one I fondly remember was Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh.
I would not be alone you see, because I walked with a Buddhist Munk in my ears. He stayed with me through all the steps I took. There wasn’t anything to be afraid of. My anxiety was still there as a shadow behind me watching my every move. I would shut off his voice in my mind as I listened to Hanh as he told me beautiful stories about how I should stay mindful to the present moment. As I attentively listened to his words that felt like a much-needed friend, I felt much safer walking step by step to connect with the world that long had been known as the scariest place on earth.
The first chapter of the book beautifully begins like this …
“Breathe! You Are Alive. Twenty-Four Brand-New Hours. Every morning, when we wake up, we have twenty-four brand-new hours to live. What a precious gift! We have the capacity to live in a way that these twenty-four hours will bring peace, joy, and happiness to ourselves and others. Peace is present right here and now, in ourselves and in everything we do and see. The question is whether or not we are in touch with it. We don’t have to travel far away to enjoy the blue sky. We don’t have to leave our city or even our neighborhood to enjoy the eyes of a beautiful child. Even the air we breathe can be a source of joy.” – Thich Nhat Hanh. (1991) Peace is Every Step, The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life. Random House Group.
Peace is every step.
The shining red sun is my heart.
Each flower smiles with me.
How green, how fresh all that grows.
How cool the wind blows.
Peace is every step.
It turns the endless path to joy.
“These lines summarize the essence of Thich Nhat Hanh’s message—that peace is not external or to be sought after or attained. Living mindfully, slowing down and enjoying each step and each breath is enough. Peace is already present in each step, and if we walk in this way, a flower will bloom under our feet with every step. In fact, the flowers will smile at us and wish us well on our way.” – Peace is Every Step from the Editors Introduction by Arnold Kotler, Thenac, France. July 1990
I remembered I had written something in relation to this topic in my diary about my walk with nature with Thich Nhat Hanh. The date was, January 6th, 2016.
I wonder why some emotions are so hard to express? I`m extremely tired of explaining. First and foremost to myself, secondly to others about why it has become like this. Why I have become the way I am. Living with anxiety. So I hide, more from myself than from others. I am scared that I am vanishing into the empty space of sadness and sorrow that I have had. I used to pray each night when I was a Catholic when I didn’t find answers. Today I read a lot to locate my fears so I can confront them once for all. I feel like I am in a haze, no lets put it in other words – a labyrinth of the past, I can’t get out of. I am drowning in the waters within. I choke on these words I need to get out. I am alone.
I had to have a moment of self-pity.
I think the hardest part is to face yourself. Looking yourself in the mirror in the morning and truly see yourself and all the struggles you have encountered through life. Being here, breathing in and out truly helps. I try to remind myself of that sometimes when things get too tough. Whenever I go out on my walks in nature where I live, I have Thich Nhat Hanh playing in my ears. When I hear his words I listen intently like a sharpened knife I slice the words bit by bit and let them marinate by each step I take forward. Sometimes when I walk past people I do forget my anxiety and my past. I reside in the now, just smiling to the passerby. Maybe that’s how I should see my emotions as well? As passerby .. I can agree to the Buddhist teachings of accepting and observing life as it goes by. Maybe it would be easier then. I’ll keep that as a mental note.
I got a moment of flashback when I was rewriting my diary notes to the emotions I was going through at this time in my life. It was extremely hard but I do feel relieved to know that nothing good comes from easy work. Hopefully, it can help someone out there, maybe it’s you who is reading this, that will start to take your daily walks in nature and just be present in the moment.
Breathing and out.
Thank you for stopping by. If you liked my post, make sure to leave a mindful* comment below or ask questions about whatever comes to your mind.
Thank you for reading!
With loving kindness,
Tiaga Nihal Kaur.