All last week I started my mornings walking around the Town Lake hike and bike trail in Austin, alone.
Being such an extrovert, I typically walk with a partner and use this early morning time for walk/talk meetings or rare windows to connect with friends I rarely get to see. After returning from my recent retreat though, I found my thoughts and demeanor so reflective that I had to be alone. I was craving my own, sweet, silent company.
As I walked and felt the gravel crunch under my Keens, dryness in my mouth and the sweat running down my back and arms, I wondered how many times have I done this walk? Hundreds? And how many times had my mind been somewhere else–focusing on the next approaching landmark, what type of taco I was going to pick up for breakfast or my growing “to do” list that awaited me back at the office?
On my walks last week, however, I played with the concept of mindfulness or “present moment living.” I noticed the smells around me–strong body odor, rotting plants, sweet honeysuckle and how brilliant the colors of the blooming cactus and blossoming flowers were that lined the path–they literally seemed to explode before my eyes. At one point, I had to stop to really take in the beauty of these cactus blooms (above)–their intensity overwhelmed me.
I also focused on the muscles in my legs–in my thighs and calves and feet and marveled at how they worked together in harmony to effortlessly carry me the 3.6 mile distance around the lake.
I noticed a slightly metallic taste in my mouth and felt my breath changing, speeding up, slowing down, but always flowing.
The thought that I could not get out of my head was–how many times have I missed amazing gifts: moments, words, facial expressions, subtle nuances in communication, missed opportunities to connect, from not being mindful? From not really using my senses to full absorb and take in what was going on in the moment?
After my mindfulness experiment last week, I wanted to hear mindfulness guru/author John Kabat Zinn and found a link to an interview he did with Oprah–check it out if this speaks to you: http://www2.oprah.com/index.jhtml.
I love the poem they referred to during their interview. I’ll include it here for you to enjoy and would love to hear how mindfulness looks throughout the course of your days.
P.S. More to come tomorrow on how my writing sabbatical has been going–the experience has been nothing less than intense. And surprising. And at times, very challenging. Surprise, surprise :).
Love After Love
The time will come when, with elation, you will greet yourself arriving at your own door,
in your own mirror, and each will smile at the other’s welcome, and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another,
who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs,
the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life.
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