What can we do to make the most of the time we have?
When we are in the city, inching through traffic, shielding ourselves from passers-by, or caught in a web of work or social stress, we can lose what it means to be present.
Every moment is an opportunity to build on the last and to rise to the next, but how many moments do we consistently acknowledge and embrace? I think the more present we feel, the more we know we are living, and the less anxiety we feel about dying. Maybe a fear of death is more about a fear of running out of time, and not feeling truly connected to our present moment.
Living feels really good when we are living for ourselves. We often get caught up in the cycle of giving our time and energy away to others before reserving any for ourselves.
I also know we want balance. That search for and perfection of balance around us and in us is, some believe, what our journey is all about. I love getting outdoors, but don’t experience it as often as I’d like. It’s a funny thing to live in and love a big city, but to also strongly feel the call of the mountains.
I have this dream to backpack the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) up the western part of North America. I don’t know when this will happen, or if I’ll be able to accomplish the entire trek, but my visions of hiking in the mountains are complimented by thoughts of camping along the way, marching through varying scenery, and developing an increased self-reliance.
As I think about ways to promote and intensify my own awareness, I think about small things that help me become more mindful of myself, my environment, and the relationship between both. Below is a list of suggestions designed to make the most of our time outdoors, but they can be applied wherever is helpful. They’re ideas to help us reconnect and recharge, whether solo or with others:
This must always come first, in everything. Be patient with yourself. Nurture, commend, care, encourage. Lay off the self-guilt and pressure. Our selves are powerful components in this world and our best ally in this life. They need TLC, too! Set aside some time, and set boundaries to uphold this. “For these minutes (or hours, or days), I will focus on me.”
Sometimes we are better at allowing ourselves to just “be” when we acknowledge that our time is limited. So whether it’s work, social media addiction, or a negative friend that’s impacting us—we must remember to take our “me time.” Fill what obligations you can beforehand, then let the rest fall away. This is your chance to reconnect. Others can wait.
Distractions are detractions. As we let go of the things we think we are attached to, we allow ourselves a better chance of feeling peace. Distance you from using non-essential items, while still keeping yourself feeling safe and secure. Take pictures if you want, but save posting them for later. The goal is to allow ourselves focus, which begins with detachment from non-essentials, including ego-entrapping things like judgment, and comparisons to others.
Know where you’re going, but allow yourself opportunity for discovery. Allow life to show you something unexpected, something new! Let nature reveal itself in unplanned ways.
Use your senses.
Not just for safety reasons, but to increase awareness and presence. Listen. Smell. Feel. Pick up sticks. Touch the grass. Smell the sap. Take note. (Do research ahead of time to make sure the plants you touch are safe!)
Allow yourself to wonder.
Comment to yourself and ask questions about what you’re experiencing. Feel the bark of a tree, examine the ants, butterflies, birds…there are whole worlds all around us! When we acknowledge them, and feel the awe of them, it brings us gratitude, and something inside us evolves a little more.
How does it feel to get a good breath out there? Where is your breath centering from and flowing? How does it feel to exhale? Is the air different ? Feel it, experience it, revel in it.
Take these suggestions as you will. The beauty of connecting with ourselves is no one else can do it for us. It’s up to us to pay attention to how we feel, and figure out where we’re most at peace. The questions we ask, and the answers we find for ourselves are our guides to the subtleties of mindfulness. The more we listen, the more clarity we have.
But above all, kindness is key.
I just came back from a day trip to Yosemite with family. I noticed that when our phones were out and taking pictures was the focus, we hiked probably the least I’ve ever hiked in my life.
But then, looking around, I remembered I could accept the situation without judgment. We were surrounded by beauty, and I was with people I love. We were laughing, and we were together. We won’t always have the privilege of being around those we love. Gratitude swept in, and I noticed more. Someone in the party had a knee injury, so we wouldn’t be doing a big trek, and the rest of us weren’t physically trained enough for the level of terrain we were dealing with anyway. The greater purpose in this trip was to spend time together. To get out and enjoy nature together. And we were doing just that, even if it wasn’t anywhere near what my goal of backpacking the PCT will be like.
We ate lunch near a stream, situating ourselves on big moss-covered rocks surrounded by waterfalls. We took fun pictures together, a couple of us climbed the rocks, and we shared thoughts, stories, and laughed. The experience was uniquely created by who we were and what perspectives and emotions we were bringing into it, along with the environment we were in. There was no need to be anything other than what we were together.
As we embark on each day, with all our preparation and planning, at some point we realize: we are here. This is our present moment. Whatever our ideals and expectations were before, let them go, and allow the present to be what it is.
Like the late William Glasser emphasized in his book, Choice Theory, discontentment occurs when our image of what we want doesn’t align with what we’re given. Allowing ourselves to see and and appreciate the memories being created right now, is a gift we have the power to give ourselves. Like a dam being opened, happiness flows in. Allow it. Even if it’s not what you expected.
Author: Dominique Hinman
Image: Courtesy of Author
Editors: Catherine Monkman; Emily Bartran