During my psychology class we discussed a new school of thought called mindfulness. It is the act of letting go of day to day worries and enjoying the details in our world that so often go unnoticed during our busy schedules. My professor explained the notion that if we are constantly thinking of our to-do lists and deadlines, we will rarely be able to truly focus on one task at time. When she was explaining this I realized how true it actually is. Sometimes I am trying to eat my supper and enjoy the food but I am so busy thinking about having to clean the kitchen, do my homework, or add some new content to the website. I get so swept away in this endless to-do list that by the time I am finished my meal I can't even remember what it tasted like or if I enjoyed it.
Fast forward to after my lectures when I was walking home from the train station. I had this idea of mindfulness in my head, so as I walked home I tried to consider all of the different things that I was passing. I have actually done exercises like this before with an app called "Calm" that has heaps of guided meditations and mindfulness practices. I used to do them a lot before I came back to Canada and started university. I guess I just got so busy trying to balance school, work, and a personal life that I didn't have time for mindfulness.
I am so glad that my professor brought up mindfulness because after that lecture was the best walk home I have had. I haven't been living in this neighbourhood for very long (less than two weeks actually!) so I am still learning the different roads. But one very important thing that I hadn't done yet was just explore for fun! So on my walk home I did a mindfulness walk. Of all of the different ways to practice mindfulness, this is by far my favouirte because it lets you exercise, enjoy nature and some fresh air, and it is a very sensory experience.
Basically you start by walking at any pace you wish and as you walk you focus on your feet. What does it feel like everytime you take a step? How does the weight of your body move through your foot as you step from heel to toe? How does your shoe feel around your foot? What does the ground feel like beneath the sole of your shoe—hard, soft, spongey, cracked?
Then you move on to your body. How do your hips move as you take each step? What does your back feel like? Your arms? Your shoulders? Does your head bob up and down or sway side to side? Can you feel your heart beating and your chest rising and falling? What is your pace like—fast, slow, or somewhere in the middle? What happens when you change your pace? So on and so forth.
Then comes my favourite part: tapping into all of your senses one at a time. How does the air feel on your skin—is it windy, cold, warm, foggy? Are there any parts of your skin that tingle, feel warmer or colder? Can you feel the air lingering just underneath your nose, waiting for you to breath it in? What does the air around you smell like? Can you smell the trees and plants as you pass them by? What can you hear? Can you hear the sound of cars on the road? Or how about animals and birds? Are they chirping, talking, or moving silently? Are the leaves rustling in the trees? If you open your mouth slightly, what can you taste? Does the air taste like nature, city, just plain old normal air? And finally, what can you see?
When I go for these walks I usually enjoy all of the sense equally, but yesterday I loved the "What can you see?" portion of my walk. There were so many new things around me; a new neighbourhood, new trees and plants, and a new season!
I hope there are some autumn lovers reading this because you will absolutely understand what I mean when I say, there are so many things to see in autumn! From big things like trees in the middle of a change (most of the leaves still green yet a sprinkling of oranges and yellows) to crisp air hanging over a lake. To little things like tiny orange berries surrounded by brown leaves, a little birdhouse suspended on the trunk of a birch tree, or a bush of yellow flowers with a covering of frost and a few dried flowers.
There are just so many things to experience in the world if we are willing to let go of some of our stress. It definitely isn't the easiest task in the world, so don't worry if you get a bit distracted during your practices. One of the hardest things for me was accepting that my brain was built to make connections so it is sort of hardwired for distractions. Now that I have accepted this (for the most part...) I am able to let my distractions float away really nicely; I picture them as clouds just floating away from my field of vision. And if you think it is too time consuming to practice mindfulness, keep in mind that it is a completely indvidual commitment, so you decide how long you want to practice for. Somedays I only do 3 minutes and other days I may try for 15 minutes. Regardless, any bit helps.
If it is your first time, I strongly suggest finding a few recordings or an app that will help guide you through your first practices. Even though I have practiced mindfulness before, I still love to use the guided practices! For those of you who are motivated to give mindfulness a shot after reading this, I can confidently say that you have chosen the best season to start!
How to Make an Autumn Tree with Real Leaves!
What you need:
- something to colour with,
- collect some leaves from outsite.
- Print out the craft template of choice.
- Colour pieces, as necessary. (For a change of pace, try using different mediums than you typically do, such as paints or pastels). Pastels smudged make really nice tree bark!
- Cut out the pieces. This step may require adult assistance. Don't worry too much about getting the tree branches cut out perfectly. We'll cover any remaining white space with leaves.
- Glue the tree template piece onto a decorated background (blue construction paper, with green tissue paper for grass and white cotton balls for clouds works very nicely!).
- Take the real leaves you collected from outside and use white glue to attach them to your tree!
- Close the template window after printing to return to this screen.
- Set page margins to zero if you have trouble fitting the template on one page (FILE, PAGE SETUP or FILE, PRINTER SETUP in most browsers).
Disclaimer: My opinions on mindfulness are completely my own. I don’t get free access to different mindfulness apps for my posts. No one involved in these apps are aware that I am making recommendations; I make them purely so that you all have a starting point if you want to give mindfulness a try.
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All photos in this blog post are copyright Kaitlyn Guenther.
I am Kaitlyn, the K in DLTK and I've been working for the family website since I could hold a crayon. Now I am all grown up and I live with my partner, Callum, and our adorable cat, Juicebox! When I'm not helping my parents on the site, I am studying psychology at the University of Calgary. I love my work and my studies, but when I can I love to head out to the mountains and enjoy the outdoors! You can connect with me on Facebook or Instagram.