Outside chance

Car in Field_Alan Cruk_Stocksnap

How’s the weather where you are? Is spring in the air? If it isn’t, you’re probably irritated that I asked, but hang in there. It’s coming (even if you’re in the southern hemisphere and have sliiiiightly longer to wait). It always does, and with rare exception, it wakes up our senses after a long winter’s nap with color, scent and warmth. What’s not to love about taking the time to mindfully pay attention to all of that?

Mindfulness often involves turning inward through meditation or other contemplative activity. However, it doesn’t always have to. Since our efforts are about calling our attention to the present moment, it’s perfectly acceptable to do that by simply noticing our surroundings. So when the sun, flowers and fresh grass are calling, you don’t have to ignore them for the isolation of a formal meditation space. You can embrace them, and make noticing them your mindfulness practice. Bring your attention to the physical sensations of the environment around you – the scent of the plants and flowers, the sounds of the birds chirping, the sensation of the grass between your toes, the warmth of the sun on your skin. Let your senses bring you into this moment, out of your thoughts about the past and future. If weather isn’t cooperating, you can do this inside, too.  Listen to the rain hitting window, or the wind carrying across the trees. Even the sound of clock ticking can be meditative. Our senses are always attuned to our surroundings, and can help us connect to the present and quiet our mind.

Back to those spring blooms, though. When you can go play outside, just do it. Research has connected outdoor physical activity to better moods, increased cognitive ability, enhanced generosity, and more creativity. As if just feeling like a kid again wasn’t enough, turns out playing outside makes us better at lots of pretty important things (and makes kids better at them, too, but that’s another topic). So take a hike, but bring your attention with you. You’ve been waiting all winter for this exact gift of a moment.

“The earth has music for those who listen.” – George Santayana

Photo credit: Alan Cruk

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