The morning came without a sunrise. At least not one that I could see to enjoy. The weatherman predicted scattered rain throughout the day but promised warm temperatures. My mood seemed as ominous as the clouds in the sky, but like the weather, I felt promise that things could change. I am a firm believer that we choose our moods, and I was determined to select a different attitude than the one I woke up with. I needed to get outdoors but wasn’t wanting to get rained upon. Yet, it seemed that a walk would be the only thing to quiet my mind and lighten my spirit. With that thought, I jumped in my apple red Jeep and headed for my favourite trail. It came as no surprise to me that the parking lot was void of any other vehicles on such an overcast day. I sat and looked at the skies and saw some clear patches promising me that there might be a chance that the scattered showers would hold off just long enough for me to get my walk in. So out I headed out onto the trail, leaving my umbrella behind. If it rained I would just get wet, I decided.
I zipped up my jacket, put my head down into the wind and began my walk. My thoughts were on my troubles and on whether or not I would regret my decision about not bringing my umbrella. I promised myself that I could always turn around if things got worse. It was at that moment that I reminded myself to let go of everything and be mindful. Live in the moment. What beauty would I find once I allowed myself to just be? I began to appreciate the fall air as it swirled around me. It has such an earthy smell this time of year. The leaves all make music as the wind rushes through them. I slowly started to feel myself relax. That is precisely when the rain started. Are you kidding me, I thought? I had already been lured by the scent that swirled around me though, and I wasn’t ready to let the rain chase me back to the security of my Jeep. I had only just started my walk. So I pulled up the hood of my jacket and trudged on. As I stepped on to the bridge that linked the land to an island, giving this park its’ name, I met a runner out with her dog. We glanced at each other with a sheepish look as if to say yes I am crazy to be out in this weather. We smiled, said a quick hello and carried on our way. I kept thinking, do I go back? Yet, just like earlier that morning, my mind and body begged for the daylight, fresh air, and exercise. What was a little rain after all? It is funny that as a child being outdoors in the rain becomes an adventure filled with laughter and curiosity. As an adult though, you focus more on being cold and uncomfortable not to mention the mess it will create once you get your dripping body back into your car. It was high time that I channelled the inner child in me. The child that was so curious to see what mysteries unfolded in the great outdoors when it rained. So, on I walked, once again reminding myself to be mindful.
My eyes drifted towards the lake where the ducks and geese were happily feeding. A heron stood amongst them. I wondered, did the lone bird mind the rain or was it as an excuse to lay low and rest? I walked past a group of children on a class trip, dressed in rubber boots and warm rain jackets. They stood at the edge of small pond listening to the park director as she introduced them to the various plants that grew there. I wandered on as her voice grew further away and I was reminded of the class trips that I went on and then later my children did, which I had volunteered to assist with. Realizing my mind was in the past I pulled my thoughts back to the present moment. That is the trick to mindfulness. Our waking hours and for many even our sleeping hours are spent with minds whirling. We replay the past and focus on the would have, should have and could have, often leaving us feeling wistful or sad. We jump forward to what we need to do to be prepared for the next hour, day, week or month, making us feel anxious or overwhelmed. Truthfully even in the present moment, our attention jumps from the phone ringing to the email coming in, to the person that just knocked on the door. Rarely do we just stop to completely immerse ourselves in what is happening to us, right now. It sounds so simple, but it is challenging to do. Once you begin to get better at it though you become amazed at the difference it makes in your life. Continue to walk with me for a moment.
The light rain had stopped by this time. I breathed in deeply to smell the rich earth that was soaking in the moisture that had just fallen. I revelled in the feeling of being alone as I walked further on the trail. I stared at the last of the beautiful wildflowers. They looked so much brighter now that they had a shower to wash off the dust from their petals. I marvelled at the two different wildflowers that had grown beside each other, each a different shade of purple. I smiled because the colour made me think of my son because it is his favourite colour. I took pleasure in seeing the rain droplets hang from the leaves of the trees around me. I then caught a glimpse of a farm gate that had droplets hanging from each iron rail. The sight of that gate amongst the wild grasses and trees instantly took me back to the walks that I took when I lived in the Netherlands as a child. I would take the back fields to my Oma’s farm to go visit her. I chuckled to myself remembering a time where I had walked home in the near dark so afraid that I would get lost and would have to spend the night in the fields with the cows. Surely my mom would come to look for me. I was only in Grade Four at the time. How simple life was back then. I caught myself and whispered “stay here” once again reminding myself to stay present.
The sound of yet another flock of geese flying in brings my thoughts back to the trail. I stop as I watch the geese noisily honk their arrival as they glide in over the tops of the trees. I stand mesmerized as they effortlessly glide down towards the water and land leaving only a minimal ripple trail behind them in the water. At the water’s edge stands yet another heron. Is it the same one that I saw earlier? Is he wondering if he will ever escape the geese and their noisy ways? I carry on listening to the sound of the gravel crunch beneath my feet.
Further along the trail, I take pleasure as I walk amongst the pine trees where their needles cover the ground. My footsteps cannot be heard. I marvel at how soft the ground is beneath my feet. I look under the pine trees hoping against hope that perhaps a deer might be resting there on the forest bed for me to see as I so stealthily wander on but alas no, not this time. There are only pinecones scattered there. My walk is almost over, but I am not ready to leave. I wander down a little footpath off of the beaten trail. I know it will allow me one last glimpse of the water. I stand at the waters edge in complete silence and drink in the beauty before me. I study the water and enjoy seeing the colour of it as it reflects the colour of the sky. I take comfort in watching the waves endlessly roll into the shore in the constant, rhythmic way that it does, knowing that the water will continue moving long after I walk away. Across the water I see the class standing on a dock. I can hear their distant voices but cannot make out what they are saying, but their laughter rings in my ears. Then as I turn to retrace my steps back up the little path to return to my Jeep, I see a lone bench with a memorial plaque attached to it. I had seen other memorials throughout the park, but for some reason, perhaps because I have to say goodbye to the trail for another day, this particular memorial leaves me with a beautiful thought. I am left feeling incredibly grateful for the gift of time that I had just been given. I was reminded to continue to live while I am alive. I could have stayed indoors today to avoid the rain, but instead, I chose to face it and become a part of it. I was given the joy of nature and the reminder that life is rich with beauty even on rainy days. You just have to remain open to the possibilities around you.
I have to continually remind myself to remain mindful. I can get so lost in the worries of what has passed or what is to come that I forget to fully live the moment that I am in now. Life slips by us because we are so often never fully present in the moment. I have tried traditional meditation at different times in my life and have always struggled to do so. I find I get more success from walking amongst nature. It is a form of meditation as it allows you to just be. The stress leaves your body. Your mind calms. You find joy. As you can tell my mind wanders during my walks, but I always pull it back in. It can be challenging, but the more you practice, the more your attention learns to really settle into the moment. You can even practise this doing everyday tasks. Grocery shopping is a great example. Take the time to really focus on what it is that you are placing in your cart. That food will nourish you and your loved ones. Your focus then is on health and family. It is not in the office. Take a breather from work. Stress is inevitable as well as sometimes necessary as it gives us the push that we need to accomplish specific tasks. Stress, as we all know, can take a toll on our bodies, so it is essential to give your body a break. Today, with the clouds hanging low in the sky and the trail being virtually empty I became immersed in the beauty around me. I did not dwell on any past regrets or worry about what tomorrow would bring. Today I was at the park, and I was blissfully, serenely, at peace. Though the sun may not have shown itself today, it was indeed a beautiful day.
From the heart,