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

Dominoes

This morning as I woke I considered how important one person is to Planet Earth, can one person really make a difference. I’m not talking celebrities or politicians, but people like you or I, someone in our lives from friends, loved ones and family.

So I imagined a picture of my left eye, then zooming out a picture of my body with the collection of books and art on the walls of my room, and out again looking at where I live being grateful to have a home with all its luxuries within.

I then considered the street I live on, with people I did and did not know, then to the city I live with its seven hills and the history it all could tell, and on to the country that marks my culture, an island in the North Sea, which in itself is small.

I zoomed out further to Europe, a continent full of different traditions and customs, then to the world filled with all sorts of different life not just human of shapes and sizes, and finally an universe that holds secrets that few really understand.

I felt so insignificant, I cannot make a difference as only a dot. Then I considered where I saw dots, dominoes. I then realised that my words and actions were like the dots of them. So really my life is but a series of domino displays.

I decided that this week, when I feel why do I bother or give a damn, I will remember my dots,  touching the lives of others that I may never see but go beyond my street, town and country. I may be one person but the impact with others, amazing.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Let’s go for a walk

Let’s go for a walk this sunny Sunday afternoon down my street,
Look at the world through my eyes just for these next few hours.
Listening to the conversations that go on behind the closed doors,
Or reading the newspapers with a pot of tea and rich tea biscuits.

Cars arriving back and forth to visit family creating lifetime memories,
But remembering those that are alone and love even a phone call.
Birds flying south as know the festival season is all but over again,
And not because soon the trees will be reds, oranges and yellow.

There are the those that suffer from ill health (physical and mental),
Wishing that people saw them the person and not their diagnosis.
Looking out of their windows not to spy upon their neighbourhood,
But wishing they could be outside enjoying it not stuck inside.

Others head to worship their god not in a cathedral but in a mall,
Buying yet another pair of jeans identical to their other twelve.
Do they stop to think just who made the clothes that they buy,
Or the welfare and life of the animal now their Sunday dinner?

A few take time to reflect over their week now over forever more,
Learning from the days past and planning for a future to come.
Where as some prefer the company of the black box in the corner,
Watching anything from the Grand Prix to Celebrity Big Brother.

Each one on my street spends their Sundays in their own way,
An unique artwork of many colours, sights, sounds, and smells.
Perhaps one day you will walk down the street to enjoy it too,
For now look out your window to your street view with fresh eyes.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The Storm

Surviving the storms of life can take a lot out of us. For it is not the escaping tunnels that have to be dug but our inner strength and resources. When suddenly one day a storm stops, we find ourselves in an empty street, but uncertain if this just another quick break from the rain before it starts again and need to find shelter quickly or it is truly over. Equally, we are uncertain how we survived the storm, questioning and analysing it in our minds, and all we can see is rubble on the street from a past to which we cannot ever return. The only thing certain is that the storm has made us who we are now and lays the foundations of tomorrow, like the clouds now breaking in the sky above to shine light in the path we must now go. We must remember like all things in life, the storms do pass, even when right now it feels like we’re sheltering from one thunderstorm after another. Do not give up, try chasing rainbows and believe it again.