Mindfulness – an early Spring walk

The sun was shining today so I achieved something I’ve been failing miserably at since Christmas.  I went for a walk. A whole hour in the sun and the fresh air!

The first thing I noticed as I went up the hill was my aching legs.  Obviously my laziness has not gone unnoticed by my calf and thigh muscles.  But I pressed on.

Next thing was the snowdrops.  They are at that perfect stage just now – almost open but not quite.  Hundreds, maybe thousands of them, glowing against the mud and the dead stuff and the dirty brown of the hedges.  I found myself wishing that I’d brought my camera, but hard on the heels of that thought came an insight that I’ve had once or twice before.  Let me explain.  I have photos on my computer, in folders with names such as Spring 09, Winter 08/09 and so on.  The photos are of sunsets, spring flowers, ferns opening, bare branches against January skies, lambs in fields, Autumn leaves, etc etc.  Things that you can see every year.  Things that can never be captured adequately on film.  Things that are always immeasurably better if you see them for real.  And finally, things that never lose their freshness and always make you glad to be alive.

So let’s save the camera for times that aren’t going to come again, like young children playing, birthdays and anniversaries, holidays and special occasions. And let’s get out there as often as possible and renew ourselves daily, weekly, season by season.

After that it was just one thing after another.  Tight catkins waiting for the warmth of spring.  Pennywort and Hart’s Tongue ferns and fluffy moss contrasting beautifully against the brown, dead leaves and ferns and the tightly cropped hedgerows.  Young lambs skipping in the fields.  Water rushing in the gully beside the lane, and pouring out of the hedge after the recent heavy rain.  (Hey, that rhymes – maybe I’ll try poetry one day).  And the sun was warm (in places!)

By the time I got home my mood was more positive than it had been for days.  It would be silly to claim that I’d forgotten all those wonderful things were out there on my doorstep; but it certainly did me a lot of good to be reminded.

Of course it’s raining again now, but I know that Spring is coming and I plan to looking out for it.

When I got home I cut some twigs from the garden like we used to do as children.  Sticky buds from the Horse Chestnut, and some green and red stems from Cornus, in a glass on the kitchen windowsill.  It might be a bit early for them to come into leaf, but we’ll see.

I think this could be counted as an hour of Mindfulness.  I’d like to do it more often.

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Swimming

Haven’t been swimming for several weeks, till today.

Back in the summer I joined a local fitness club, after much deliberation and soul searching. It is expensive, oh yes, even the “off peak” membership, which means I can only go during the week between 8:30am and 5pm. Comparing it with other public swimming pools, I need to go at least 3 times a week to make it worthwhile.

There is a gym and various classes on offer such as Circuit Training, Cycle Fit and Body Balance, but so far I have only been swimming. Never fancied using a gym – it seems so boring, as well as sweaty and exhausting. Swimming is different. Tiring, yes, but it feels so much nicer. I like the way it slows all your movements down, and you don’t feel hot and sticky. If you concentrate on the water and the light and the reflections, or the feeling of the water against your skin, or the movements of your limbs in the water, it’s almost like meditation.

To me, swimming in the morning is nicest. Before getting involved in my daily routine. This means on my days off. It is possible to get there before 5 on work days, but somehow I don’t feel like it so much when I’ve been working. I should try harder, just one afternoon a week, I should be able to manage that.

I would also like to try some of the other things on offer, like Body Balance, Cycle Fit, maybe Pilates. Not having anyone to go with, I find myself reluctant to start. Which is harder, to learn to do these things alone, or to find someone to share it with?

Anyway, today I did 40 lengths in about 50 minutes. Which is the most I’ve ever done.

Question: is it better to build up to swimming a greater distance, or to work at doing the same distance in a shorter time?

Whichever it is, and I suspect that both have their merits, at least I have an activity that I can enjoy in all weathers to keep up my health and fitness levels – one of my main goals to enable me to enjoy the rest of my life in to old age.

>Does it mean nothing to you?

>The other day I took a walk into “town” during my lunch break, as I often do. Being rather overweight, I try to increase my activity levels. Got a pedometer from Weight Watchers. It’s a bit of a joke, clocks up steps even as I cross the room to the filing cabinet, or get in and out of the car on my way to work! Anyway, the little machine says I’m “healthy” if I do more than about 2.5 miles in a day.

2.5 miles is surprisingly difficult to do every day. Work is 3 miles from home, not something I feel I can walk there and back as well as doing a day’s work. It’s country lanes all the way, not good for parking, while there is a good car park at work. Sometimes I go for a walk after I get home in the afternoon, but unless dinner is very simple, this makes us late eating, so I often don’t bother.

Round the “town” is barely enough. Down the hill, cross the road outside the pub, up the hill the other side, turn right and detour up a side street lined with terraced cottages, then left and back towards the “town centre”, past the church, across the road and up past the Co-op, then left at the main road, down to the traffic lights, all the way down the hill, up the other side and back to work. Almost “healthy”, but not quite, and the next longest route would take longer than my 30 minute break.

Why is keeping fit so artificial? Never a sports enthusiast, my favourite forms of exercise are walking and swimming. Yet both are boring when done as a keep fit activity. Swimming lengths is about as dull as you can get, OK occasionally but very dreary week after week. And I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve walked the 3 or 4 circuits from my back door – all country lanes, nice hedgerows, fields of cattle or sheep, very pretty but all the same. Boring, boring, boring…

On my walk around the town is an old methodist chapel, now a “Mission”, apparently very popular among the local evangelical Christians. On the wall of the Mission is a big sign, facing the traffic coming down the hill: “DOES IT MEAN NOTHING TO YOU?”

Evidently, “IT” refers to the bible, the Jesus story, the whole God thing. And I give them credit for making me think. What does it all mean to me?

Childhood Sunday School, best clothes, mini church service, colouring pictures of loaves and fishes, wishing I could be out riding my bike or climbing trees instead, little brother crying because he hated it even more than I did.

School assemblies, hymns, the Lord’s Prayer, headmistress pontificating in cap and gown on the stage, the reading about faith hope and charity, hundreds of girls all in rows, Jews and Jehovah’s witnesses watching from the balcony, girls fainting.

RE lessons, Miss Carter, learning the names of all the books of the old testament by heart (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy…), visiting local churches, remember finding Unitarians and Quakers interesting.

Occasions in church or chapel, weddings, funerals, wanting to join in Communion, wanting to shout and rage, almost laughing at people “speaking in tongues”, silly jingly “choruses” that stick in your head for the rest of the day.

Wanting to be a nun after watching the Sound of Music, it would be easy with that scenery.

Feeling too emotional to sing hymns, not just at funerals either – why?

3kool doesn’t see the need for it – she says the world and the universe and space and the stars are enough, why do we need God as well.

What should it mean to me? It means too much to too many people already.