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

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An Earthly Balance

In the month of October the leaves change themselves into many colours
And all round my neighbourhood from branches they soon drop like tears
As sadly I look to the distance hills that seem to grow further away by day
Obscured by the ever growing houses and cars replacing crops in the fields

One day it felt like ten thousand leaves fell about by my head as I pondered
With a mist descending with a quickening pace Photoshopping out the hills
And a gentle breeze was replaced by an angry gust of Mother Nature’s rage
Even the birds seemed frightened of her so kept their songs to muted grey

My eyes wandered left and right as watched the destruction she caused
But my thoughts were elsewhere lost in thought of those now forever gone
A father, a friend and a great uncle too all now stars in the evening skies
Even the chaos she caused would not change the internal mess I now felt

In this constantly changing world the view from my window now tarnished
Emptiness replaced where the leaves had once sat among the song birds
But like the soldiers of Flanders Field now lying on the ground in blood red
Humans and Mother Nature fighting to keep control that each feel their own

Too many have swapped the colourful life for that of autotuned human grey
Follow blindly like a sheep that can be manipulated into doing another’s work
But now many are awakening to this each dawn with their swords ready
And on Mother Nature’s side they will fight to keep this world in balance

In the month of October the leaves change colour but life on Earth carries on
And the armies evergreen trees protect us from Jack Frost’s chilling laugh
Humans are only one of the characters in this play not the star and director
So let us let take a back seat and enjoy the show with the others not alone.

© Fi S. J. Brown