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Mindful : August 2016
Consciously Engage Your Senses Making the effort to stop along the way and bring conscious awareness to your senses will not only bring you into the present moment and deepen your connection to your surroundings, it will also bring your mind and body back into a state of balance. Your body will start to relax and your mind will begin to settle. It is estimated that approximately 90% of our attention is taken up with our thoughts. That leaves just about 10% of our attention for our bodies. By consciously holding our awareness in our bodies, without forcing anything, we can encourage the body to begin to soften and relax. Throughout your hike, stop every now and again and try one or more of the following exercises: SENSE PRACTICES Look Enjoy a few moments in silence as you look around and consciously engage your sense of sight. Star t by turn- ing around slowly and deliber- ately taking in the 360-degree view as you do. Look up—explore the sky, the patterns in the clouds, the canopy of trees above. Look down—notice shadows, patterns, colors, and textures on the ground. Sit or lie down for a moment to absorb your surroundings. Now look closely at an object that catches your attention, such as a leaf or the bark on a tree. Allow your gaze to soften as you explore the object. Gently observe its colors, shape, and texture. Look for subtle details you might have missed at first glance. Allow yourself to become really curious about what you’re looking at. Listen In this exercise simply stop and enjoy a few moments in silence as you consciously engage your sense of listen- ing. Even after you’ve finished the exercise and star ted walking again, try to remem- ber from time to time to slow down and consciously tune into that sense of listening. If it feels comfor table for you to do so, close your eyes. Or, if you prefer, simply lower your eyes, keeping your gaze soft. Allow yourself a few moments to settle into your body. Begin to tune into the sounds around you. There’s no need to search for sounds. See if you can simply allow sounds to come to you. You might notice the sound of the wind in the trees; the sound of birds; the voices of other hikers in the distance. Do your best to experience sounds as pure sensations. Notice if your mind wants to label or judge sounds. This is very normal and simply what the mind does. See if you can notice any such commentary and gently guide your atten- tion back to the experience of listening. And, as you continue hiking, pause from time to time to more consciously engage your other senses. Touch Stop and tune into the sensation of the sun or cool breeze against your skin. If you notice an object with an interesting texture—a rock covered in soft, velvety moss, for example—explore it with your hands focusing quite deliberately on your sense of touch. Taste When you stop and enjoy something to eat, try eating in silence for a few min- utes. Bring conscious aware- ness to the taste and tex ture of your food. Food already tastes so much better when you’re out in nature—and all the more so when you eat mindfully. Smell Stop, close your eyes, and bring conscious aware- ness to your sense of smell. Be patient as you allow smells to come to you. Smells can be quite subtle and harder to detect, but if you are patient you will be surprised by what you begin to notice. 74 mindful August 2016 practices insight