We spend so much time thinking, planning, organising, managing, that we never really experience being fully alive and fully aware. In our hectic distracted lives we are too busy worrying about the future or rehashing the past. When we are like this, we stop interacting directly with the world and our lives; and instead, we get lost in an internal monologue crammed with our ideas, concepts and judgements. Like an empty house, the lights are all on but nobody is at home.
This Sunday I went for a walk with my wife Rhea and my daughter Erika.
The sky − grey and overcast, the temperature − fresh but not cold, the wind − gusty and refreshing and a fine steady rain.
The walk starts with conversation − the important yet mundane stuff of family life. Then, as we settle down so the conversation stops, and what is left is just us three, cocooned by the silence, punctuated only by the sounds of nature, the forest and all it contains. I take off my woolly hat so that I can better feel the rain on my head. I reflect on how, if I still had hair, I would not be so able to appreciate the rain; the symphony of the random pattern of rapid pinpricks as the rain strikes my head. I feel the drops both individually and together. The drumming pat, pat, pat beat of the rain on the leaves, changing with the wind and the intensity of the rain. The sound of the stream as it rushes gurgling from its birth in the mountains to its appointment with the sea. I notice my breathing and how my body works; my breathing changing with the gradients: a bit harder uphill, relaxed again downhill; and how the pure, oxygen-rich, forest air reaches every cell of my body. The streams are full after the recent rain and it takes mindful presence to cross the streams without falling off the slippery rocks. I notice how I sense through my shoes the safe non-slippery parts. Remarkable! I stop frequently to simply look and see. I find myself constantly in wonder at the sheer abundance of life in every square centimetre. The more time I take to simply look, the more I see and the greater wonder I feel at the patterns, the colours − the sheer vitality of it all. I am there right in this miracle of life, of vitality. I am a part of it. As my mind becomes more tranquil so the illusion of separation created by ego evaporates; then I become just a point of consciousness observing. In this moment there exists the observer and what is being observed. There are moments where even this distinction fades and the difference between the observer and the observed is not there, just a oneness − a deep connection and joy, immense joy and profound sense of gratitude and dare I say it − love.
The present moment and the miracle of being alive and conscious is always there; it never goes away. It is just that we get distracted.
Make time to just be in nature, whether that is in a forest, on a mountain, in a park or in your own back garden. Take some holiday from the compulsions and demands of your “me centred universe” and simply be: and look, listen, breathe, observe, and marvel.
Of course do this always with an attitude of open curiosity, a sense of kindness to yourself and others, always with a touch of humour.