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Mindful : August 2016
Savor Silence Having enjoyed some (if not all) of the above mindfulness exercises, walking in silence is a wonderful way to enjoy the latter part of your hike. How long you decide to walk in silence is entirely up to you, but I’ve found that 30-40 minutes works well. Most of us have so few opportunities to experience silence when in the company of others. While it can feel a little uncomfortable at first, there is something quite wonderful about shared silence. A period of silent walking offers you an opportunity to consciously engage your senses in any number of ways, relaxing both mind and body as you do. You might spend the period of silent walking consciously holding awareness in your body. Or focus on the sights, sounds, and smells around you. You certainly can’t expect to keep thoughts of your life completely at bay as you walk in silence, so don’t try. Even intermittent moments of focus have been shown to have a calming effect on both mind and body. Stop and Tune In Next time you find yourself outdoors, whether you’re heading off for a hike or even a short stroll, see if you can remember to take a few moments to stop and tune into your surround- ings, as well as your physical body, by con- sciously engaging your senses. Pay attention to the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe. Feel the sun on your face or the breeze against your skin. Tune into the sights, sounds, smells, and textures around you. Immersing yourself in your surroundings by consciously engaging your senses will leave you feeling calmer, happier and more relaxed, whether you’re hiking the Inca trail or walking through your local park. ● VISION EXERCISES Expand Your Peripheral Vision This exercise explores and encourages the full use of your peripheral vision—the ability we all have to see out of the corners of our eyes. We naturally use our periph- eral vision when scanning the night sky for a shooting star, for example. We use our peripheral vision less and less in our everyday lives due to the increasing amount of time most of us spend look- ing at one type of screen or another. This exercise helps reawaken our capacity to take in and enjoy a much wider field of vision: Pick out an object approximately 30-60 feet in front of you to focus on—a par ticular mark on a tree for example. As you begin to focus on it imagine that your eyeballs can’t turn in their sockets—like an owl, which needs to turn its whole head to look to either side. Con- tinue to hold your focus on this point and allow yourself to blink whenever you need to. Soften your gaze and notice what you can see at the edges of your vision. Now stretch both arms out in front of you and begin to wiggle your fingers. Keeping your arms straight, and con- tinuing to wiggle your fingers, slowly move your arms away from each other while still holding your gaze on your chosen point of focus. When you lose sight of your moving fingers, slowly bring your arms back together again. Now slowly move one arm up and one arm down, continuing to wiggle your fingers. When you lose Take Snapshots Throughout your hike try taking “snapshots” with your mind. When you notice an object, sound, smell, flavor, or tactile sensation that you are par ticularly drawn to, study it for a few moments and imprint it on your mind. As you walk on, play it over in your memor y for another 30 seconds or so. It is surpris- ing how much detail you can take in even in a brief moment. Taking snapshots in this way enables you to replay the loveliest moments of your hike—the sound of birdsong, the feeling of the sun on your face, the smell of wet dirt— at a later time in vivid detail. sight of your moving fingers slowly bring your arms back together again. Allow your arms to hang down by your sides once more and take a few moments to simply notice and enjoy your re-awakened peripheral vision. You might like to name one or two things at the edges of your vision in your mind. As you continue walking, every now and then, see if you can consciously tune into and enjoy your peripheral vision. You can’t keep thoughts of your life completely at bay as you walk in silence, so don’t try. Even intermittent moments of focus have great power to calm both mind and body. 76 mindful August 2016 practices insight