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Mindfulness - And Augie the Dog
June 13, 2017
Several days each week, Augie and I go for a walk at Big Trees, a beautiful nature preserve hidden in the midst of Sandy Springs, GA, across from a Subaru and Cadillac dealership. It has been something I have been doing regularly for almost 10 years beginning with romps with Goldie our previous Labrador Retriever.
Recently, I’ve added a new dimension to these walks; I’ve begun mindful walking. In this context, mindful walking is not, in fact, being mindful of hidden rocks or poison ivy (although that is not a bad thing), rather, it is encapsulated within the framework of mindfulness training.
I began my engagement with mindfulness in the midst of a difficult period of work related anxiety. I was introduced to the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and purchased both his book and his MP3 recordings. For close to 8 months now I have been meditating every day for 30 minutes or more. My routine is to get up early, down some caffeine (to help ensure that my meditation does not devolve into a return to sleep) and then find a quiet spot and sit or lie down to meditate. It is a wonderfully relaxing and pleasant experience and it has become an essential part of my day. I start my work day refreshed and calm.
Kabat-Zinn and other meditation advocates and teachers speak of “being in the moment”. In meditation one focuses on breathing and attempts to clear the mind of current challenges, planning for the future and dissecting the past. It is very difficult; as Kabat-Zinn comments “if you have a mind, it is going to wander”. But through daily
practice, I have been able to reach a wonderful state of calm while meditating. Among the payoffs is that, when a challenging or difficult event occurs in the workplace or elsewhere, I am able to call upon, what I term “mindfulness memory”, that is to say a sense of emotional calmness that enables me to face these situations more thoughtfully. This also translates to calming my breathing and the state of emotional hypertension that accompanies our flight or fight physiological response.
Thus, when engaging in mindful walking I focus on the beautiful surroundings of Big Trees; the wonderful three-dimensionality of the wooded area, individual plants, trees and fungi, and, of course, the rompings of Augie the dog.
I encourage you to consider some form of mindfulness as part of your daily routine. It can be as simple as taking a walk and focusing on your surroundings or closing your office door and sitting at your desk with your eyes closed for 10 minutes. I believe it can be a valuable part of professional practice and, of course, a wonderful gift for your soul.