A Mindful Walk on Nature

The end of September is a tricky time of the year in the Washington DC area. It might rain, be cold or sunny. I guess it is all part of the magic of Fall.

I was blessed the last weekend of September. I had my kids with me and the weather was on the 70’s. Perfect weather to get out.

I usually engage them in an outdoor activity. I gave them several options: biking the Crescent Trail, hiking the Sugarloaf Mountain or hiking around Clopper Lake. I knew they were going to choose Clopper Lake because it is closer to our home, about 5 minutes away by car. It is an awesome place to hike if you live in the Gaithersburg area. You can walk around the lake, which is about 3.5 miles. You can breath nature, touch nature, smell nature, … reconnect. In other words enjoy a mindful walk.

I parked near the eastern part of the lake and we all walked down to meet the Lake Shore Trail. Immediately Titi took the lead. After few minutes he stopped and looked near a rock. He saw a small creature. I’m not sure about what he exactly was looking at. I was happy he was just exploring. I loved it. I didn’t need to say anything. Their attention became focussed on their surroundings. Their sensory system activated. There was nothing to do but walk and play with whatever they found on the path.

These were some conscious activities that arouse naturally from the two hour hike that I wanted to record, that I might used in future hikes, and that might inspire other parents. Here they are:

1) Look for animal saliva in trees

It sound gross, but is was fun. We looked at the trees cut by beavers and we dare to touch the saliva in the trunk. It was a great opportunity to talk about beavers. We discussed about where they might live, if they swim or not, and how stinky the saliva was compared to other salivas.

2) Estimate beaver bytes from diameter of trees

It was an interesting idea that came from my 7 year all daughter. We started looking at trees and imaging how many bites a beaver had to take to bring the tree down. We looked at a 40 inch tree, and she said: Well.. is like 100 bites. The we looked at a 10 inch tree and she said: I think is like 10 bites.

I was not sure about the efficiency of the beavers, but I think we were not that far away from reality. The point to be made is that it was fun and allowed us to talk about math concepts.

3) Challenge to remain silence

The rule was that nobody can talk. Just walk. We lasted like 10 minutes. It was an interesting exercise to control yourself. I know it is a common practice in mediation retreats where people can’t talk for days. I lost the challenge when I spoke to correct their direction. They were going the wrong way. They were 20 ft in from of me. I had to break the spell by saying Kids go the other way! Next time I will think about getting their attention in a different manner.

3) Try to bend a branch slowly without braking it

This action requires connecting the branch with your heart and feel when it is about to break and stop. It is a very mindful act since you need to concentrate on the pressure of your fingers and fill the branch folding in your hands. Your eyes connect to the branch and to your feelings foreseeing any possible rupture. We broke several of them. What worked best for us was bending and relaxing several times while each time bending a little bit more.

4) Talking, hugging and high fiving trees

This also sounds silly, but it was fun. Specially, my girl does it in a very natural way. For my boys it was a little bit harder. We said: Hi tree how are you? Thank you for being here and cleaning the air that we breath, for making shade, for making this place so beautiful. Then we hug the tree or just high five it. We also respectfully said Bye Tree.

5) Look for turtles or other cool animals

Walking trying to spot animals is great, because you center your attention in an idea. I think it helps thinking of a positive idea and projecting a specific outcome. Something that’s what we need to do more in our lives. Feel the outcome of what you desire. We are going to see a turtle, it is just a matter of time. Almost at the end of our trip, we spot some turtles and took a video of one of them swimming. If you have never seen turtle swimming, here you go:

I recently was in a yoga class, where the teacher was talking about abundance. And she mentioned one idea that made me ponder:

What do you have, that money can’t buy? What is so precious that it will be very hard to put a value on it?

I responded internally in my half lotus position:

Having three kids, hiking in a beautiful lake with them, living in such an awesome safe place like Gaithersburg, and all of us having the health condition to hike for two hours.

Maybe the acts of mindfulness lead to acts of gratitude!

 

Purposefully crafting your daily yeah moment

lalisI was looking at my daughter swinging on a tire last Sunday afternoon. She was playing. She was enjoying life, rejoicing in the moment. I heard her say “yohoo” several times.

Kids don’t have any concern about what’s next, no big responsibilities. I think this is the reason they are free to just enjoy and don’t worry. They can craft dozens of yeah moments in a day.

We as adults don’t swing as much anymore. We get dizzy faster, or at least I do. We are thinking about how much time we have left to go home to do stuff. I thought, well at least we should try to craft every day a precious moment, a yeah moment. They can come in randomly, but I think it needs to be purposefully planned.

 

The feeling of a yeah moment is like the sensation you experience when you hold your baby minutes after born, receive an award because of your achievement, or when you kiss someone for the first time after a long anticipation. Your heart beats faster. Dopamine levels go up. You face gets red. You cry.

It is hard to get events like this every day. But, what if there is an activity that we can often do and we can give ourselves a pad in the back for the job well done? So I sat down and jot ideas to craft a yeah moment:

  • Business: Succeeding in getting new members for my organization, getting more people compliant to OGC standards, giving great talk or giving a great class at UMBC.
  • Personal: Writing a blog post that can help a lot of people, sing a song, dance salsa, get into the mountains with my bike, and run.

You need to be thoughtful about this. And even before it happened think about the yeah moment. I went home after teaching yesterday night and while having the late dinner I said to myself: “Thank you God because you allow me to give a great class, students laughed, they were all able to install and run Python, they learned about Big Data and I finished on time. Yeah !”. Yes, I purposefully finish with a “Yeah”, felt happy, and took a zip of wine.

I also decided that I will write at least one blog post per week and run. I want to create as much yeah moments I can in a day. And, I have found I get a higher yeah moment when running.

I run around a beautiful small lake in Kentlands in Gaithersburg, MD. This is how it looks:

This is what I do:

  • Due to the fact that I am a Lion chronotype (which I discovered after I read the Power of When book) my best exercise is at 5 PM.  I can testify that it is working for me. After years of trying to do exercise first thing in the morning I changed my schedule.
  • I put Pandora, “Happy” station.
  • I start Runmeter. Being a data geek I track all my runs and bike rides. It is a free app and synchronizes with Strava. Strava is fun because it allows you to compare to others. I take it as benchmark app.
  • I run about a 5K at least 3 times per week. It is divided in segments approximately as follows
    • 0-1 miles: Happy warm up with happy music. Normal pace.
    • 1-1.5 miles:  Yeah sprint moments: I try to feel I’m a super athlete. Two to fours sprints (5-10 seconds) to speed as much as I can.  The music helps a ton. These sprints create several yeah moments.
    • 1.5 miles – 2 miles: Gratitude. I disconnect from headphones. I recap the day and give thanks to God about good things that happened during the day, e.g. people I had lunch with, people I have helped, great emails that I got, the great weather, etc.
    • 2-3 miles: Goals recap. I think about my goals and leave the ideas flow. I read my main goal from my phone (See previous post). Creativity pumps in crazy during this 5 minutes period  (ok 8-9 minutes period).
    • 3-3.5 miles. Happy music again. Warm Down.

A screenshot from the Strava app:

run-results

Final thought: Will be great to have a yeah moments tracker or a yeah diary.