Being outside does wonders for my sometimes introverted, serious disposition and broadens my perspectives on the self-imposed weights that I carry. My weights — my worries — come in all shapes and sizes, colors and tones. Some of them have hung around for a long time; some are short lived. They all love to chatter with each other, swirl into one another and create something new. This is the crazy-making of my “monkey mind” at its finest. Left up to its own devices, the mind loves to get lost in fears and doubts and uncertainties. A restless, unsettled mind can lead us down a path of sleepless nights, layers of anxiety and exhausting depression. I know my monkey mind intimately and have been on a quest to tame this dragon for many, many years. For me, finding the quiet in the roar is the holy grail of my life’s journey.
Life comes with all sorts of built-in roars, and coping with a cancer diagnosis is one of the loudest, most complex and messy thunders one ever experiences. So how do we foster a peaceful mind and support ourselves during difficult times? Where can we find our “island of calm” in the midst of so much turbulence?
Walk for a Still Life
For over two years, I have been walking almost every afternoon with my 30-something daughter who lives just down the street from me. Late afternoon is our time to pull ourselves away from our work and set our bodies and souls free. We walk in the rain and bitter cold, the blaring sun and humid temperatures, as well as those perfect, balmy, blue-sky days. For about an hour, we wander. This practice has become our island of calm.
I walk to get out of my head, away from my monkey mind and into the physical world. I consciously slow down and observe what is around me, breathe in what is around me, feel what is around me. I stop and photograph things with my phone. I pick things up – a feather, a rock, a rusty bottle cap, a wasp nest, a seed pod, a bit of moss. Sometimes I’ll stop and create a small roadside mandala with what I have gathered. When I get home, I arrange my collections into what I like to call my “Walking Still Lives.”
Many times, I’ll jot down a few words about the objects that made it home with me. I’ll make intuitive associations and weave them all together into a series of thoughts. Just for fun, I’ll join these thoughts together every couple of weeks. It’s a magical process and sensational practice that I get lost in. My monkey mind does not like to play this game. The more I play, the more “he” distances himself from me. Astonishing.
Quiet Your Monkey Mind
Healing Icons challenges you to try this easy, sensation-filled practice. Put on some comfortable shoes and go forth. It’s amazing how many unnoticed nooks and crannies there are in our own neighborhoods. Walk without expectations. Take a small note book and a pencil, if you like, and make notes of what you notice. Take your phone and use it as your sketch book. Download a great, free photo app (my favorite is Camera+) and mess around. Look up and down and all around. Notice what is beneath your feet. Write about what you notice. Doodle a detail of something you gathered with a pencil. And yes, any ol’ pencil will do.
Just do it! Set aside 30 minutes every day or so to walk. Work up to an hour. What do you have to lose? If you’re lucky, perhaps a lot of stress and regular visits from your own personal monkey mind.
Share with us some of your walking wanderings below.