Being Part of the Scenery

Ever had those moments, periods, even days, that seemed to flash by while you were looking the other way?  Ever been reading a book only to get to the end of a page and realise you’ve taken none of it in?

Every now and then I’ve had morning bus rides, bike rides and even scarier – car rides that I can’t remember.  I get to work, settle at my desk and realise I’ve just lost the last half an hour.  I remember being quite freaked out in the past when on occasion I’d driven somewhere and couldn’t really remember the specifics of getting there.  Yikes!

And not because I’d been drinking but because I had ‘transported’ my consciousness while my sub-conscious did the riding, walking or driving.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love daydreaming (best done when you’re not the one driving though) but sometimes we go through life in a kind of waking dream, not fully present in the moment or attending to the task at hand.  In short, we are not in a mindful state.

Mindfulness is the opposite of this.  Over on the Foundation’s website a fellow Health Promoter, Grant has described the practice of Mindfulness rather eloquently:

‘mindfulness helps us recognise and savour the wholesome moments that are already present in our lives. Often these are the quiet moments – they are so natural and smooth that they tend to slip by unnoticed. With mindfulness we touch these moments and we begin to taste the quiet joy that accompanies them.’

Grant discusses how Mindfulness has grown as a therapeutic technique but also transcends beyond treatment, becoming a lifestyle.

‘(Mindfulness is)… a way of being in the world rather than simply another technique that we ‘add’ to our lives.’

The beauty of mindfulness is it can be practiced anywhere, anytime (yes, even while driving your car).  It helps us to fully experience the richness of existence and appreciate the beauty of any given moment or place in time.  And that’s good for anyone, of any age, anytime.

I often used to think as I was driving my car to or from work how separated I was from the elements outside (sometimes that was a good thing – or so I used to believe).  But I didn’t realise until I started walking and biking just how much I was insulated from the world, from the experience that was ‘outside’.  And the more I say that word and think about it (“outside… out… side… outside”) the whole concept of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ starts to get pretty funky.  Whichever side you’re on, you’re on the side of something.  But what, exactly?

I digress.

I used to try being more mindful as I drove, or as I sat idling in traffic.  But I’m finding it much more rewarding when I’m walking.  Part of the appeal for me in going car-free was the opportunity to feel more connected with my environment – literally ‘part of the scenery’ – rather than a passive spectator.  I also needed something of a push (OK, a kick up the ass) to get out there and start doing it.  It was just never the right time, never convenient to begin.

As we’ve talked about before, going car-free for us was an idea whose time had come on the crest of a convergence of forces, reasons and aspirations.  It’s interesting to see which of those is becoming more or less important over the short time we’ve been doing it so far.  I’m really starting to love the walks up or down the hill, and even through town, in all sorts of weather.  I’ve now acquired a whole bunch of waterproof cycling gear and accessories to cope with every type of weather (no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothes) and I look forward to experiencing all of it this winter.

For those interested in the therapeutic application of Mindfulness, the UK Mental Health Foundation has started a major campaign championing Mindfulness.

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4 thoughts on “Being Part of the Scenery

    • Thanks Soph, in fact I reckon it was you I first heard that saying from! And picking up from the post in which I quoted you previously (Spare the Effort…) – on Saturday, Seraphine walked all the way from Lyttelton Main School on Oxford St up to the beginning of Stevensons Steep. No small feat (feet) for a 22 month old.

  1. So true, I used to find myself driving 40 miles around the M25 and not remember a thing about the trip – not really the best time to be ‘somewhere else’!
    I also agree with the walking/cycling vs driving thing, even just opening the window whilst driving makes a difference, sounds and smells that you would otherwise miss.

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