I Would Rather Be Here Now
Cultivating Mindfulness and an Attitude of Gratitude
As my departure date fast approaches and as more and more hikers are hitting the trail I am finding increasingly difficult to concentrate on my everyday routine. With social media and Appalachian Trials it is entirely too easy to be swept up in the flurry of posts and photos about hikers starting their journey. The temptation to read about shelters and hostels and those initial steps on the trail that I have been looking forward to for ages is nearly overwhelming. The problem with this is that I am still employed, and my departure date is at least two months away.
Don’t give me any sympathy; I have the very happy situation of being able to participate in a flip-flop hike with a departure in mid May. I am looking forward to lessening my impact on the trail that I have grown to love and admire from afar, and being able to start later allows me to dedicate more time to my job as well as potentially avoid some of the colder weather. I am also extremely grateful that both my boyfriend and I were able to give ample notice to our employers without the fear that we would be let go prematurely, something that not nearly all of the Class of 2015 is lucky enough to experience. While this has been wonderful in that our co-workers (who are also friends/ adopted family) can share in our excitement and we can speak freely about our upcoming adventure, it also means that our long-awaited journey has become something of a mild obsession to me. Our official countdown has been at least a half year long!
With a heavy case of “pre-trail fever” setting in, my challenge is cultivating a stronger sense of mindfulness, as well as an attitude of gratitude (I know that may sound cheesy, but if rhyming helps I will go with it!). A few weeks ago I saw a bumper sticker that simply depicted “I Would Rather Be Here Now”. Perfect. What a delightfully succinct way to remind people that the present moment is the one that should be enjoyed, rather than worrying/anticipating the future or re-living the past. Of course, unless I somehow find a way to keep that sticker constantly in my periphery it is a bit harder to remind myself to be mindful each passing moment. But I think that is what I need to do. While it is easy to idly day dream about being out re-connecting with nature and the sense of accomplishment of climbing a mountain and seeing stunning vistas, if I can’t focus on the present moment now- whose to say that I wouldn’t be planning my next adventure while hiking the trail?
Mindfulness and Gratitude
Honing mindfulness is easier I find while I am out with friends, doing something active, and being out in nature. However, there is still work to be done and in order to prepare myself to have a conscious hike I am trying my best to focus on the day-to-day routine. I personally find that by acknowledging a facet of each activity that I am grateful for, it helps tie me in to the activity as well as make the process more enjoyable. Perhaps some of these perspectives/tips would also benefit other readers of Appalachian Trials that are still counting down to their own thru-hikes/adventures/next trip to work.
What Works For Me, and Maybe You!
This is probably the one I need to work on the most, and it may be the most crucial for starting your day off right. Rather than rolling over, groaning as you slap the alarm clock (or batting the cat away in my case) and starting to plan the day and thinking of all that needs to be done- why not take a few conscious breaths, smile and realize that you have a whole new 24 hours before you, it is a fresh start and you have the ability to live it the way you want to.
The Daily Commute
I can imagine how seeing the “I Would Rather Be Here Now” bumper sticker while sitting in traffic would either be a nudge to be mindful, or perhaps infuriating depending on what you decide to feel about it. By focusing on the fact that I not only have a means of transportation, but a job/home/friend to go to helps me to not become too distracted with the destination and enjoy the scenery and the ride. Traffic, or red lights or drawbridges may delay your arrival, but it is also a chance to sit and remember where you are and what you are doing, and to focus on being where you are now.
I am lucky to be fond of my job, though like any occupation some facets of it are inherently more pleasurable (pro- gabbing about a subject I love, con- cleaning toilets). A trick to not get too caught up in a flurry of tasks is to take a deep focused breath when you hear a bell. When the phone rings or a door opens and a small bell chimes, by stopping to take a breath it helps to stop my mind from going in too many directions at once and to come back to the task at hand. Mental reminder is to be happy to have the opportunity to do good work for a job that I like and has done right by me.
Admittedly this is one of the times that I have always relished the process nearly as much as the final result. I love being able to have access to tasty and nutritious foods and to have the time to assemble them in new ways and to share a meal or snack with someone. Reminder, it is a luxury to have the ability to keep so many different items on hand, especially with refrigeration, and all of the tools to create a variety of tasty meals for us to consume.
I think cleaning is probably one of the best daily tasks for cultivating mindfulness. Here is the opportunity to not focus solely on the goal of it being clean, but to appreciate having whatever it is and the time and physical ability to clean it. Washing dishes can be relaxing, having access to fresh water I don’t have to filter is not something to take for granted. The fine zen art of sweeping up kitty tumble hairs is a great practice because I know that attempting to get all of them is an act of futility, so why not sweep and laugh at the antics of the cats as they attack the broom.
While I have outlined some strategies that work for me, it is still very much an ongoing practice to try and develop a more mindful life. I think that it will help me to best embrace the remainder of my time here before embarking for the trail, as well as help me to better enjoy my thru-hike. Goal- to always rather be here now!
If you are interested in reading more about meditation or mindfulness I can recommend some authors/books that do the subject far more justice than I.
I dare say anything by Thich Nhat Hanh. I am particularly keen on Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life. Especially as he highlights so many daily tasks that can become a meditation practice.
Do you have any favorite books on meditation or mindfulness, or favorite practices? I would love to hear them!
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