Last weekend, I went out for a walk with my family. It was the four of us and our dog. We often go out for walks with the aim to explore our environment. We only moved to our place around eight months ago. We’re still very much in the process of figuring out where things are and what the best paths are.
I really love these walks although they generally leave me really exhausted at the end. We don’t set out for long trips but after two hours of climbing over rocks and trees, with the wind in my face, and two kids and a dog around – I’m exhausted.
This time I noticed something though: because we walk cross-country I have to be extremely present in the moment. There was one part on our tour where we passed a few bits of overturned soil. My husband saw something between the trees and we heard a whistle. Now, we know that there are pigs around, bores as well as sauls with piglets. Neither of them I want to meet in the forest, even with a dog.
As we were making our way across that bit of forest, I intensely looked around, observed every possible movement while keeping everyone together in our group. It took my full concentration and being present right there and then.
That was a moment when I realised that I don’t often spend my time outside focussing on possible dangers. In fact, I romanticised being outside in nature.
My dog and I have our set routes. I often let her run loose because I know where we are. In most cases, I will also have headphones in my ears with a podcast running or a lecture. Frankly, I don’t pay much attention to what’s around me until it crosses my path.
While I have learned that I can’t focus on a path and whatever is playing in my headphones at the same time (I got lost twice because of it), I’m now beginning to realise that maybe I also pay very little attention to the fact that I’m outside at all.
Usually, I praise myself for walking at least 60 minutes outside every day. It’s actually the reason I got a dog because I wanted someone to walk with me. Now that she’s with me every day, I beginning to fall into a routine. I have a leash in my pocket, a dog around my feet, and headphones in “to be productive”.
There is part of me that wants to scold myself for falling into a routine. I should be present in every moment. After all, I’ve been training presence for over two years now and I call myself a mindfulness practitioner. I should be on top of my game all the time.
But then there are times like last weekend when I notice that routine had crept into my daily life. And actually, I’m okay with that.
Yes, I am present even when I’m doing routine tasks. But I also notice that it’s okay to get lost in routine every now and again. And the simple reason is that this routine creates a space for me to be creative.
You might have heard about this phenomenon that we often have the best ideas when we’re brushing teeth or are in the shower. In essence, those are routine tasks. And for me, being outside has also become a routine. I walk and as I walk I can let my mind wander. And I consider that a good thing.
As I walked past the overturned soil, I realised that I can do both when I’m outside. I can be present and I can let my mind wander. Both are possible. All I have to do is to get the timing right. I need to pay attention when necessary. And I can allow the space created by a routine to let new ideas flow.