Last weekend I climbed out of my car and set off to walk a suburban nature path with an ever-present buzz swirling in my head. “Do I have time to do this now? When am I going to get the zipper fixed on that lightweight suitcase? This wind is colder than I expected. How many bids do I need to get for repainting the kitchen? I should have worn a warmer jacket.”
Well, at first I didn’t actually HEAR the words—these endless reminders and prods are so familiar to me they just rumble on like that background music you hear in the mall or the grocery store. And like that background music, I often wish someone would please, just turn it off!
I shook my head to break the auto-stream in my brain. To clear the din, I put my focus on my feet, noticing the sensation as each step put me in contact with the ground, acknowledging the solid earth beneath me, the stable support that holds the weight of my movement. I like this practice of simplification, even for a brief moment. Of having nothing more in my mind than making contact with my path.
Gradually, my awareness expanded to include the sound as well as the feeling of my feet on the gravel. For a few steps, all other sounds were silenced—no background buzz from my brain. Just noticing variations in left and right foot, The difference in the impact of each foot.
For a few steps, my awareness held steady on the sounds and sensations of my feet. Then, I noticed the intrusion of laughter from a group of walkers on the path ahead of me. I picked up the hum of highway traffic in the distance. Soon, the chatter of birds in shrubs along the path floated into the mix.
An unexpected surge of joy swept over me, rippling the surface of my skin with elation at my body’s amazing skills. All these sounds that my brain could detect and name simultaneously, without conscious input from me! This awesome cooperation of ear and brain that asked nothing more from me than simply noticing!
It’s so easy, walking this familiar path, to hear nothing at all beyond the babble of my thoughts. No bird song, no footsteps, no whispers from the fabric of my jacket as my arms swing at my side. Nothing wakes me from the dutiful pattern of getting my daily exercise until willful intention steps forward and suggests that I pay attention. Then, what wonders await me!
Oh, how I thank the part of my brain that knows how to make these choices. Knows how to clear the swirl of a too-busy mind and tune into life’s everyday miracles.
Find more tips for bringing mindful focus to your walks at Take A Walk on my website. If you want my occasional blogs send directly to your email inbox, sign up above, and confirm your subscription on the email you’ll be sent. Share your thoughts and comments below!