Mindful Walking

Modern life is so incredibly hectic. Squeezing in time for ourselves between work, family, and social commitments has become an increasing narrow to invisible line. We are led to believe that being busy is good, where as idleness is bad. We must always be somewhere, doing something, and yet some still complain of being bored!

Last summer, my dad and a good friend passed away, and my mum had a hip replacement. I became overwhelmed with life to the extent that I couldn’t begin to process my losses, I knew I was not coping with life, and realised I had to go back to enjoying simple pleasures, which would allow me space to grieve alone, and help me to de-stress, such as a peaceful walk through the countryside.

I recently read that on average, we spend only three minutes out of every hour fully focused on the present moment. Who wants to go through life feeling trapped in a busy mind 95% of the time? Whilst it’s impossible to flick the brain’s off switch, perhaps we can at least press pause now and again.

You have probably heard and seen the word ‘Mindfulness’, as seems to be the latest buzz and trend, but is similar to many existing and older practises, including that of stoicism. Stoicism is at its root, a philosophy for minimising the negative emotions in our lives and maximising our gratitude and joy.

Marcus Aurelius was a stoic philosopher and Roman emperor said: “Every hour focus your mind attentively…on the performance of the task in hand, with dignity, human sympathy, benevolence and freedom, and leave aside all other thoughts. You will achieve this, if you perform each action as if it were your last…”

Within stoicism, the most important feature to maintain was noted by Epictetus is prosoche, which can be translated as ‘attention’ [Discourses 4.12]: ‘Do you not realize that when once you have let your mind go wandering, it is no longer in your power to recall it, to bring it back to what is right, to self-respect, to moderation?’ 

So what is Mindfulness? Essentially, mindfulness is about using some straightforward techniques to help let go of stress and live in the present moment, free of judgement, and ultimately find more peace and fulfilment. I try find myself enjoying the moment by taking in a scene with every sense such as paying closer attention to the texture, appearance and taste of the food that I eat, to simply closing my eyes and tuning into the sounds around me when around water, just to find a moment of calm. Then bringing my attention back to the deep inhale and slow exhale of my breath when my mind inevitably starts to wander.

Life is not an ‘one size fits all, so what works for me may not work for you. It’s about working out what feels right for you. For me I find it best when I am out walking, whether in a forest or walking down the street to work, concentrating on the world around me and try to let it hold my attention, while I gently push away any unwelcome thoughts. I equally listen to birds singing to sheep bleating, and imagining it was a conversation I was eavesdropping in on. What are they gossiping about? Has the baby lamb lost his mummy…AGAIN!?

Equally, we can write, draw, paint, and/or dance what it is we’re experiencing. I love sitting with a pot of tea writing that moment, looking up images on the internet or out my window and letting my senses paint the scene, to photographing a scene to remember the experiences I felt in that moment later, and even gardening imagining the lives the ladybirds live that I see as I weed around them.

So why not try it for yourself? Put on your shoes or boots and go exploring, there is no right or wrong way to experience the world around us, but by putting away our mobile phones or switching off our televisions to see what lies beyond the black mirror and box can be life changing. Making time for ourselves and wanting to take time out should not be seen as bad things, but good things to maintain good mental health and wellbeing.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Advertisements

The black box

I am looking out of my window, watching metallic animals charging through the concrete jungle, tamed like wild animals in a circus by the self-proclaimed kings of this jungle, like all other living things in this world they want to control and own them. They are self-proclaimed as their egos are so big; the shelters they build for rest are grand and fill with objects that serve no purpose other than they feel the necessity to own them. One such object is a black box that sits in a room meant for living, which is ironic as the black box means they do not live but worship it like a false god giving it praise each day rather than see what is outside the concrete jungle they’ve created and the walls that block the daylight from shining.

This false god they believe what it tells them, when in reality it is all carefully orchestrated to appeal to their egos and desires as much as their love and empathy, making sure they invest their emotions again and again in this false god as believe informs educates and entertains them. They react not with their fellow kings with conversation but reach for smaller boxes to complain and praise, under a false belief they can change the future despite the fact the script is already written, all was planned years before, and they are merely players in a movie themselves. Some remove the false god, knocking down the walls of concrete to rediscover the multi-coloured and multi-sensory it hides; like Neo in the move “The Matrix” it feels like they have taken the red pill and awoken from deep sleep. Where as many continue unknowingly or unwanting to acknowledge what they see take the blue pill as rather have the comfort the false god brings.

I have had enough concrete jungle, I prefer to sit among the autumn leaves listening to their stories and songs than listen to the autotuned songs and false stories that the kings of the concrete jungle tell. This world is incredible, the trees of different shades with birds singing 101 songs as the wind tickles their branches and rivers do not run but massage the wounds of the mountains and forests. Take a hammer to break down the wall of concrete or smash the glass of the window in the room of living to begin to live. Pick up the telephone or write a letter, create something new, be it a pot of lentil soup or cakes with butterflies on them to a painting of the view from the broken glass to a song celebrating your love for another.

© Fi S. J. Brown