Three Lessons From a Morning Walk

“How can you take the same route day after day after day?” he asked. 

“I don’t,” I replied. “The view changes daily and so do I.”

My four legged companion and I have shared a morning walk nearly every day for over ten years. In foul and fair weather, out the door we go to greet the day. I convinced myself for several years that this for her benefit but I know that this ritual is my gift to myself in equal measure, setting my day in order and clearing the lingering cobwebs. Our morning walk is a daily thirty-minute moving meditation and an exercise in self care.

This morning I found my need for self care was greater than usual. The recap of the recent political display left me with swirling unkind thoughts and my shoulders slightly slumped as the dog and I set out. As I reached the end of the driveway and turned to face the lake, I was taken by the stunning view and golden morning light. Why, my word, I was absolutely swimming in beauty! I immediately realized it was my decision to see this beauty or not. I could certainly spend the next thirty minutes marching around town, bunched up in my crowded head with my swirling thoughts, noticing nothing but my angst. I could also set all of that aside for a few minutes and receive the gift of this new day. I looked at the dog and chose to embrace the day just as she did – noticing everything, nose in overdrive, and pausing periodically to investigate more closely.

As we began our route, my swirling thoughts knocked loudly on the door of my mind trying to encroach, but I kept my attention in my body and focused on my senses as I swung my arms and hummed a tune. I was resolved to remain present to the beautiful morning. As the sunlight illuminated red and orange autumn splendor, some of the heaviness fell away and I began to notice the gifts of the day.

Thirty minutes later, as  the dog and I completed our route, these three thoughts lingered as I hung up my coat:

Alive! The world around us is alive with activity. The birds bring forth their industriousness with song and chatter. The squirrels circle the tree and constantly scamper here and there, preparing for winter and periodically stopping to play. Nothing is done half-way or with resistance. What energy do I bring to my daily activities?

Pause and behold – Beauty is everywhere but do we really see it? When was the last time you stood still and simply beheld your surroundings? No need to photograph, capture and share, just gazing and breathing, receiving with gratitude.  Try it sometime. Be still, look closely, be patient and breathe. Let the value of the vista be as it is. No outside confirmation of its value is required.

Bloom Anyway – Several years ago, a friend gave me a bag of Dahlia bulbs which I plant each year then dig them up again in the fall. The crimson flowers this year are stunning and prolific especially in a small flower bed at the end of my driveway.  I admire the tenacity of these deep red symmetrical gems, blooming mightily despite the fact that nearly every dog that passes pauses to piddles on them. They bloom anyway. I needed this lesson, especially today.

Did I solve the world’s problems on my morning promenade? Of course not. But I got to experience beauty, I took care of my body, I was part of the bigger world and I carved a bit of joy into my mental landscape where only a few moments before joy felt illusive.  This was no small task and it somehow felt important. I reclaimed my inner landscape after nearly surrendering it to the lingering residue of political fatigue. This purposeful and determined gladness felt deliciously defiant and deeply empowering.

I am not naive to the enormous and troubling challenges ahead. But I have decided that each morning I shall put on my sneakers, step outside with the dog, and wander a bit to see what the day has to offer. That is my declaration of resolute gladness, a lesson I learned from the dog.

my-little-monkey

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Change Your Mind: How Meditation Strengthens the Brain

Then again, … 

On the other hand, …

On second thought, …

Hang on a minute, …

I confess, I have changed my mind about various things throughout the years. Some minor changes and some pretty big. New information and new perspectives often shine a light on a situation and – voila – I see it differently and change my mind.

That is certainly not uncommon. But what if you could do more than simply change your point of view?  What if you could consciously change your brain, in fact strengthening it to make it work better? Continue reading “Change Your Mind: How Meditation Strengthens the Brain”

Three Steps To Heal The Inner Divide

“Kindness begins at home.” – Rick Hanson, PhD, psychologist, JOT (Just One Thing)

She was beautiful. Her smile was warm and kind and she moved like a gazelle. After two decades as a runner, she was lean and light, seemingly always to be on the move, fresh from a shower and smartly dressed. By all outward appearances, she had it all. Yet, here she was, deeply unsettled and seeking support. You see, she was at war. Inside her most-beautiful self, a punishing unkindness was sapping her of joy and impacting her biology.

For years she ran and raced and won. One entire closet was filled with trophies and ribbons, abundant evidence of her skill and speed. Her body performed amazing feats as she propelled herself like a mythical winged creature. For her, however, it was never enough. She was always reaching but never clasping. Despite the many trophies and the runner’s high, she finished each run certain that she had somehow missed the mark. Recently she had begun to feel deeply unsettled, unable to find peace or experience joy. She felt divided inside, at war with herself.  Together we set out to heal the inner divide.

Continue reading “Three Steps To Heal The Inner Divide”

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

I need a breath of fresh air.

You take my breath away.

It is breathtaking.

I am out of breath.

I need to take a breather.

Give me room to breathe.

He was breathing down my neck.

Don’t breathe a word.

Our breath is the most natural process in the body. Just look to our everyday language for our awareness of the importance of the breath.  From the moment we let ‘er rip in that first bawling breath to the moment of our last exhale, we are being breathed every moment of our existence. I say ‘being breathed’ because, for most of us, this simply happens and thank goodness we don’t have to think about the breath! Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. Continue reading “Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.”