Usually I just go mindlessly about my business. A recent lecture by professor John Ratey though inspired some of us to try to walk together mindfully, instead of engaging in the lighthearted banter we usually engage in.
I started by noticing the sounds of my footsteps and noticing the architectural details and gardens of the houses and campus on our route. Eventually, I began to notice more of the details of the sidewalk, the plants themselves, and restaurants and stores that I hadn’t noticed before.
After a few minutes, my other senses kicked in one by one. First, I began to notice smells: the aromatic fragrance of the pine trees and evergreens, the loamy smell of the earth, and the savory aromas wafting from the breakfast kitchens. Then came the sounds: the footsteps of my companion, cars driving by, the sound of a lawnmower, the birds. The birds! An orchestral accompaniment to my walk. Then came the tactile: the perfect temperature, slight humidity, the breeze on my face, the feeling of breakfast in my stomach. My vision then expanded. Tunnel vision expanded out to 180 degrees. I saw more in my peripheral vision such as other pedestrians, the landscape, the shape of the autumnal trees, the sky and its reflection on windshields. Finally came my emotional response: delight, interest, appreciation, gratitude, amusement, and then awe.
Now, extrapolate back to my usual, mindless M.O. How much of my world am I casually strolling past without notice? How many times do I allow my mind to wander to the aimless, negative, or obsessive, instead of cultivating my appreciation and amusement? I’m basically squandering these micro-moments that cumulatively comprise how I experience the world…all I have to do is to challenge the mindless default.