Spring is finally showing some timid signs of a comeback in Canada, and many of us are feeling alive again.
It would be tempting to call it spring fever, but really, the way I personally feel is closer to waking up after a long night of sleep. I don't know if I'm particularly excited, or simply aware of my surroundings after a long hiatus. I feel like opening my eyes, stretching, looking around, noticing what is going on.
It's in the little things:
- Hearing the birds in the morning, and the peepers at night. In the winter, unless you are walking on crisp snow on a very cold day, everything is so overwhelmingly silent.
- Smelling the leaves, the grass, the budding flowers. In the winter, unless you walk by a house heated with a wood stove, the absence of smell is striking.
- Seeing in color again, thanks to the different shades of green and, gradually, other hues as the flowers begin to bloom. In the winter, need I mention, everything is white.
- Feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin, and allowing the breeze to play with my hair. In the winter we are so covered that nothing gets to us (apart from an unpleasant dampness that chills us to the bone. Or when the wind does manage to get to our skin, it pinches, bites, and burns it's so cold).
It's nothing short of a reawakening of the body, and it has more impact than one could imagine.
One of the first things I noticed when I "officially" decided to be more mindful was a new relationship with my body. Paying attention in general had the almost immediate effect of making me reconnect with physical sensations that I had been ignoring or downplaying. This had wider implications. At first I mostly noticed the unpleasant stuff - ranging from a diffuse feeling of fatigue, tension or heaviness all the way to specific and precisely located discomforts, aches and pains of varied intensities. One of my first "epiphanies" was that migraine affects me more than I ever allowed myself to admit. On the "lighter" side, I started making clear connections between the way I felt and my posture, my eating habits, my physical activity level, my reaction to stress, how much I had slept, etc. I adjusted my lifestyle to limit the negative outcomes, and to foster physical well-being.
Gradually, this new awareness started encompassing the good sides of the physical experience as well. I noticed pleasant sensations more. The softness of my bed sheets. The warmth of my sweater. The taste of my food. The colors in the sky. If my toes were in the sand, they felt "happy". It was as if all fives senses had gained acuity (and a renewed enjoyment of simple pleasures).
I realized that one of the quickest paths to mindfulness might be to start with the body. Indeed, meditation neophytes are often encouraged to do a "body scan". I now believe that a lot of my initial encounters with a meditative-like state happened while I was stretching after my workouts. Of all moments that make up a day, the 15 minutes I devote to stretching might be the time when I am most "awake", focused on how I feel in the moment, attentive to my breath, taking the time, completely oblivious to anything that came before or that will come after.
As my physical awareness increased, so did my overall "presence". I can "sense" things as they happen, and avoid acting or reacting in an autopilot manner:
- Faced with a stressful situation, I will spontaneously take a deep breath, center myself, and realize that no action or reaction is actually required on my part at the precise moment. Or that my reaction can be very low-key, subtle, peaceful. (This is particularly true during interactions with "demanding" individuals.)
- Faced with a pleasant situation, I will also spontaneously take a deep breath, center myself, and realize that no action or reaction is actually required on my part at the precise moment. Or that my reaction can be to simply take it all in, instead of rushing to the next thing.
This has made life easier to handle AND more enjoyable.
Mindfulness this Week
What is your relationship with your body, and how does it impact the rest of your life?
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