Mindful Practice

Daily Practice

I am so very blessed to live in space that affords me contact with nature. Almost daily, I take our dogs to the neighborhood lake. But the walk is just as much for me as it is for them. This particular natural space has been part of my life for two decades. I’ve had a very long time to observe the cycles, the migrant birds and the regular inhabitants. I know most of the birds by call, from the raucous rattle of the kingfisher, to the rack, rack of the blue heron, the delicate whistle of the osprey and the spooky call of the pileated woodpecker. In the spring are the iridescent eastern blue birds, the nesting bald eagle couple and the black bellied whistling ducks. Later in the summer are the green herons and those loud Egyptian geese. The great white pelicans stop over during their winter and summer migration and the Baffin heads, black and white little diving ducks winter there. There are always the white geese, cormorants, a variety of woodpeckers and hawks, the mallard ducks, sand pipers, ibis, cranes, cardinals, jays and black birds.

In the water are perch, striped bass and most likely some catfish. In the spring, the crappie spawn along the bands. Of course, there are frogs and dragon flies galore. And snapping turtles, needle-nose soft shell turtles and the red-ears. I counted over 70 of them one day. The females come to shore in the spring and summer to bury their eggs and the raccoons seem to get most of them. I find the shredded soft shells surrounding holes in the ground near shore. The raccoons also feed on the freshwater muscles and geese eggs.

There is an interesting type of oak that has large acorns and I often find deer tracks around this grove. There are also two special pines, what we call the Lost Pines here. They are genetically isolated from modern loblolly and short leaf pines. They have much thicker trunks than modern pines with branches low to the ground. They are quite majestic.

In the summer we go early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day. If the angle of the sun is just right, with a little breeze I can watch the sunlight dance on the water ripples. I often do my Qi Gong movements while I’m there, enjoying the sunlight, the sky, the earth, the water, the life. I am filled with gratitude for this beautiful place.

I’m not the only one who enjoys this space. Teenagers and fishermen also use this space and sometimes, forget to remove their waste. I find tangled fishing line and lures, discarded beverage containers and worm boxes, assorted clothing and shoes (how do you forget your shirt or shoes?). I get a wild hair somedays, gripe and complain about these thoughtless people and try to pick up the trash. There are trash receptacles at both ends of the dam, how much discipline does it take to pick-up your darn beer can when you leave the park? Other times, I try to ignore it so I don’t ruin my feelings of gratitude with grumpiness over the thoughtlessness of other people.

I do wonder how people can be so unmindful and unaware of their own behavior. I am reminded of the saying, “Your momma don’t work here.” I mean, who do they think needs to come behind them to clean up? Do they think their trash will magically disappear? Maybe it’s not purposeful, it’s just a matter of not thinking about it. People are generally unmindful and unaware of their surroundings.

I think caring begins with awareness. When we pay attention, details matter and we make more effort to take action. When we are mindful of a place, our perceptual abilities expand and our hearts open up. Our way of being changes when one is in-tune with a place. Caring equals’ awareness, attention, focus, mindfulness.  

My connection and knowledge of this natural space is the result of many years immersed in the life around the lake shifting with the seasons. I suppose this long, slow moving, cyclic timescale is so different than the fast linear pace of other parts of life such as work, maintaining a household and participating in family and social life. Although, my daily ritual of commiserating with nature provides me the fortitude to continue running the hamster wheel race of keeping a roof over our heads and food on the table. Because if you don’t take some slow time to enjoy this world, what’s the point of all the rest of it? So get out to a natural space. Walk barefoot in the grass. Hug a tree. Breath! Seek some joy and spread some joy. And be mindful enough to leave the space just as beautiful as it was when you arrived.