Today, I began writing even before getting out of bed. Taking on this daily writing project has given my creative energy a tremendous boost; but I wake with the ache of “writer’s labour pains” knowing that words insist on being born before noon. There is an persistence about the process; a preoccupation/obsessiveness that is a writer’s best friend.
So, I write for two hours and when I finish, need to stretch and walk.
I decide to take my daily walk around the Bare Trail, but want to walk it counter-clockwise. Do any of you do walking meditation? There is nothing fancy about it, or mysterious, and it’s a wonderful way to make friends with yourself.
You just walk quietly, and focus on the experience of the walk itself; using your senses to stay grounded in the walking rather than allowing the mind to travel off in all directions – to the past- to the future (as the mind is apt to do)
It sounds easy, but it’s not. It requires some focused concentration. Essentially, you keep an eye on your thoughts (you take the role of OBSERVING your thoughts in a non-judgmental fashion, like a loving parent) and when those thoughts run off through the desert, you gently bring them back. Once you have them safely returned to the present moment, you focus, once again, on what is going on in that moment.
During a walk, you might focus on the sensation of stones beneath your feet, or the crunching sound of those rocks, or the way the green of the saguaro pops in front of the bright blue sky. You could focus on how your legs move you forward, or how your arms swing. Or, you might find yourself delighted at some of the surprises you find along the way; just observing your surroundings.
Don’t expect your thoughts to develop obedience. They are not a faithful dog who will follow at your heel. Mastery isn’t the point. The exercise is simply a practice- one of being aware of your thoughts and of returning to the present moment. Over and Over and Over again.
I once had the honour of studying with the “father” of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) – a western form of mindfulness practice- whose name is Jon Kabat-Zinn. I attended a 9 day Mindfulness retreat with Jon and his colleague Saki Santorelli, together with 208 other healthcare practitioners who came together to learn how mindfulness. could help us- and the people we worked with – experience less pain and anxiety.
I remember well a session where an attendee asked Jon how long he could now be free of “run-away” thoughts, and focus successfully on only the present moment. I’m sure the other 207 of us expected Jon to reply (after 30+ years of practicing) that he could do this “successfully” for hours. You know what he said?
He said “about 10 seconds or so”.
We burst into laughter thinking he was joking, but he wasn’t. He explained that mindfulness didn’t have an end and one doesn’t master it. It is a daily life practice – a way of living, and a way of being more “awake” in life. One gains the rich learning of self awareness simply by repeating the process of returning our thoughts and focus to the present moment.
For walking meditation: Walk, choose a focal point for your attention, notice your thoughts, and when they take you from the moment of focus, gently bring them back. Repeat. (Endlessly lol)
All of that to say I no longer get frustrated with my thoughts running off, and my bringing them back “home” to my walk. This, to me, is what a walking meditation actually is. I think of it like an internal exercise – something that happens while my body is also getting exercise.
Now, back to this “walking backwards” thing. There is a practical reason for doing that of course – an “old” walk becomes “new” when seen from the other direction. Didn’t notice this little gem yesterday, on my clockwise day!
But I have another reason I do it. Somewhere over the years I decided to walk clockwise if I needed to add something to my life, and counter clockwise if I was wished to remove or reduce something.
Today, I was aware of writer’s adrenaline in my system, and I know from experience that if I don’t keep in at a reasonable level I will begin to have trouble sleeping and start revving in high gear, suffering a sort of writer’s mania. Not pleasant at all.
So, I walked backwards 🙂
On returning home, I made lunch and did a bit more work. I note, right now, that I use the word “work” as I refer to the various online tasks I have taken on, and it makes me smile. I miss my “work” a lot, and I smile realizing that I am currently well enough to take on a responsibility here and there. Even if I am choosing it for myself rather than it being written in a job description.
The desert wind picked up this afternoon, so I popped the canopy down.
My friend and I went to town, Pippa got a good run at the park, and we enjoyed dinner at a local cafe. I had the best banana cream pie I have ever had, right here in Quartzsite. On returning home I discovered the wind had done her magic and turned the canopy over. No fault of the canopy, it was laziness on my part, and not tacking down the front two corners.
The rest of the evening was spent doing something I had not yet done during the last 6 months on the road – I watched a movie!
An old classic: The Green Mile, with Tom Hanks. I have seen it many times, but find it touching and lovely every time. Sometimes I don’t have the mental energy to take in something new, and just want the soothing experience of something familiar.
I suppose with all the exploration and all my focus yesterday on the “discomfort zone” that sometimes comes with being on the road, it makes complete sense I would enjoy a short rest into the familiar ending of a fictional tale; a little break from writing my own adventure.