Yesterday I took my dog, Cooper, for a long hike on one of the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway trails. Since I love to hike I was anxious to get out there and enjoy the warm weather and peacefulness of the trail. Key word here...anxious. Anxious to get hiking, we jump on the trail and I am hiking along feeling pretty good and Cooper is enjoying himself, although I keep interrupting his smelling time to keep us moving. I am keeping my pace brisk and charging up and down the hills, feeling the effects of not hiking on a regular basis. About a mile or so later, a bit winded, I stopped. And that is when it hit me...I was not present on this hike! Here I am in the middle of these gorgeous woods and I am so concerned about doing....get this hike going, that I am missing the essence, the gifts of all that is around me.
I began to breathe deeply, becoming aware of all around me, my body, the sounds, the feelings. That is when the magic began. I sat down on a rock and just experienced the present moment. It literally felt as though a switch had been turned on and everything came into focus, clearly, brilliantly. The colors of the trees and plants became brighter, the breeze more pronounced on me and in the trees, the birds singing suddenly became clear, and I noticed...really saw all that was around me.
I felt absolutely alive and completely refreshed. Turning down a new trail, the magic continued. It seemed to me that I had never really seen how beautiful this area was until then. A beautiful running stream that meandered along the trail. Cooper completely enjoying himself now. He suddenly had so much energy! He was running and splashing in the stream, jumping across it, running back to me then back in the water. What is going on? Just before this I had to keep urging him on to stay at "my pace". Sensing that I was now here and fully present in the moment, he too came to life.
Feeling energized and completely alive and present, the hiking became easier and more natural. Our hike went much longer than I previously thought we could or would do. I become aware that I am smiling, happy and content. Then I smell something sweet but not the sweet from flowers or trees. It is the smell of something baking. What?? I am in the middle of the forest. I simply allow myself to take in this smell and I begin to feel the presence of my Mom who passed away just one year ago.
Sensing her around me brought me so much joy. I realized that it was my Mom who taught me the power of being mindful and the beauty of woods, plants and trees. When I was a small child she would take me for walks in the woods, picking berries or mushrooms, and enjoying a picnic lunch. Those were so special to me....just me and Mom because my older brother and sister were at school or at other activities. How had I forgotten about this? The memories came flooding back. She was with me to remind me to just be, that the present moment was all I really have, enjoy. Another gift. This is intentional wellness for my mind, body and spirit.
I came home feeling amazing and not one bit tired! What an incredible experience. The richness of being fully present on the hike once again helped me realize the benefits of mindfulness.
I invite you, or challenge you, to try being fully present during any activity that you truly enjoy. Just breathe and allow yourself to drop into the present. Begin to experience the gifts that are available to you.