Taking a walk is a peaceful way to spend an afternoon. Strolling along the riverfront as the sun hangs lazily in the sky, its rays send a warming sensation that trails across the skin of your face. Your eyes catch the bright glinting reflections that dance off the tiny waves created by the gentle breeze caressing the surface of the water. That same breeze tickles your neck as it playfully swirls through your hair. All around you birds call. In the distance come the shrill screams of children playing at a nearby park. The air is fresh and crisp with the changing of the season. You’re not in any hurry to leave this place, instead you saunter, allowing your feet to rustle the fallen leaves scattered across your path and you just revel in the peace of the moment.
The above scenario can happen at any time, under any circumstances. Living mindfully in this way can serve to recharge our minds from the exhaustion of everyday life. Being completely engaged in the things we do helps us to restore balance to an otherwise overwhelmed nervous system. At any given moment during the day, our minds are searching, showing us our potential future and reminding us of our past; in essence, taking us away from the present moment. If your mind is elsewhere, then you are not getting the full benefit of what this moment in life has to offer you. We take for granted all that exists around us if we focus only on internal mental wanderings.
Our minds and bodies are complexly intertwined. Our thoughts affect our bodies, our moods are dependent upon the emotions we’re feeling and the things we feel often come from our mental forays into anxiety over future or regret over past. The key to achieving a more balanced existence is harnessing your natural ability to be here and now.
This exercise will help you get in touch with your senses. You can spend as much or as little time in each sense as you wish. Switch your senses between each exercise, so you’re only focusing on one sense at a time.
Look around you. Use only your eyes and see, don’t describe it, just look, focus on one object and look at it. Try to keep your mind silent. Gently hush it if you notice it describing or wandering into thoughts. Your only goal is to use your eyes.
Close your eyes, flex your fingers and notice the sensations. Feel what is beneath your fingers. Rub, touch, feel but resist the urge to describe or look, simply touch.
Inhale deeply and become aware of any smells. Smell them in isolation. Once again, do not get caught up in a mental labelling game, simply inhale, smell the smells, allow them to be what they are, chemical signals reaching your olfactory system.
Inhale again and this time open your mouth. Our sense of smell is so tied in with taste that for this exercise it is rather difficult to isolate the two (unless you have something to taste, go ahead taste it, savour it, let it wash over your tongue to get to every taste bud). Otherwise, open your mouth and inhale deeply. Notice how the smell changes, if at all.
Close your eyes and sit unmoving. Slow your breathing to a rested pace and listen. Acknowledge the existence of sound, no descriptions and no judgments or wandering into thought, simply hear.
It may seem fairly simple and straightforward but learning to pay full attention to our senses individually can help us to enhance our everyday experiences, aiding us in tackling the things that we encounter with a more rested and peaceful outlook. The above exercise can be done any time, any place, and whenever we need a quick recharge. The key is allowing yourself to be fully in the experience rather than lost in past or future thinking. Let go of your cares or worries and just experience your surroundings. Better yet, go out and take a walk.
image: walk through park via Shutterstock