Walking Mindfully

TML hiking
Me at Bear Mountain, NY

Before I discovered mindfulness, I described myself as an “avid hiker.”  I have always been keenly aware of the restorative power of nature, and “hiking” also served as exercise. Win, win!  I have gone so far as to say that a beautiful nature trail on a sunny day (particularly in autumn) was like my “church.”  It never made sense to me that people could feel closer to God in a man-made structure.

What I didn’t realize though is that during my “hikes,” the way I would take them, I was actually performing a type of mindful meditation, “mindful walking.”  The difference is this.  A hike is quite simply a lengthy walk in a natural environment.  Mindful walking requires a far different level of attention.

TML mountain hike
Long Lake, NY

The process for me is as follows…  I do a sort of body scan as I move.  I begin by focusing attention on my footfalls.  I feel the strain in my legs as I navigate up or downhill and envision the blood pumping through my veins.  I focus on my breathing, in through the nose and out through the mouth and imagine the oxygen nourishing every cell.  Most importantly, I focus on my senses in the outdoors.  I try to take in every sound, from birds, to the wind through the trees.  I focus not only on the path in front of me, but I extend my focus to the far reaches of my peripheral vision.  I take in the smells of leaves, grass, and flowers.  

Focusing on the experience of walking in this way really brings me into the present moment.  I let go of any worry or anxiety, and if such emotions intrude, I simply acknowledge them and go back to focusing on my senses.  Whenever I finish a great mindful walk, I feel both calm and invigorated due to the bonus rush of endorphin that comes with exercise.  

For people new to meditation and mindfulness, a mindful walk is a great way to get started. Just remember to silence your phone!

Discovering Hygge in Montauk

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Montauk Manor, NY
Here it is.  This may be the word that changes everything for me.  The word “mindfulness” seemed to work and attracted a lot of attention but the thing I have been grappling for has a different name.  And that name is hygge.  There is no exact, English equivalent to the Danish term.  “Cozy” comes close but hygge is more than just a fuzzy pair of socks. Hygge describes an intense level of contentment, comfort, connectedness, and most importantly, gratitude.  Hygge is not, however, about excess, or accomplishment.  Based on my readings, it is mindfulness at it’s best; the appreciation of a moment.

During a two day vacation in Montauk with the boyfriend, I have been meditating on this term, deciding what it means specifically to me, and searching for the hygge in every experience.  In short, being mindful about “hyggeness.”

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A little too chilly for the boyfriend…
It started this morning.  I woke up and drew back the curtains of our cozy suite revealing a picture-perfect sunrise.  Warm, fresh coffee in hand, I braced myself against the chilly, April morning by wrapping myself in a blanket.  Sanford smiled over at me and for a while we just sat in silence, appreciating the serenity.  For breakfast, we opted for a cozy little spot in town.  Upon opening the door, the smell of hash browns, eggs, and waffles enveloped us like a hug.  We were seated in the center of the place and I couldn’t help but notice the amount of small children there with their families.  It was heartwarming.  The vibe was sleepy, serene, and, well, “cozy.”  On first bite of my veggie omelet, I acknowledged the thoughts swirling in my head and focused on the moment.  Mindfulness plus hygge equals bliss…