It’s been more challenging for me to slow down lately in this noisy world. Between Covid-19, the upcoming elections, and the endless technology I’ve succumbed to during quarantine, I find myself easily getting swept up in the constant chatter. (BTW, did you watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix? It’s all about the ways social media companies collect data to keep people engaged for longer periods of time. So scary!)
I did a good job of slowing down when I spent a month at my condo on the corner at the Jersey shore. Now that I’m back at home and settling into autumn, my pace seems to be picking up. How many blog posts will I write this month? When am slowing down going to start teaching yoga on Zoom? When am I going to read and respond to all the emails that are piling up? And what about all those books that are stacked on my desk and more downloaded on my Kindle, when am I going to read them?
Spin, spin, spin — that’s what has been happening to my mind lately. The good news is that when my mind starts spinning faster and faster, my body seems to do the opposite. It goes slower and slower.
The other good news is that I’ve been listening to my body and whenever the mind diverts to spin cycle, I take my body to the quiet of the outdoors. That’s where I find solitude in a noisy world.
My daily walking meditations
My (almost) daily walks help me relax. Even the new muscle aches and pains from my recent Praluent shot (which I started taking again for my high cholesterol), seem to lessen. With the sun on my back, my walks bring me into an almost meditative state.
The other day I noticed the changing leaves. I listened to the birds in the trees. I watched a squirrel scurrying by with an acorn under its neck. I followed the clouds as they moved across the sky. It was so peaceful.
The New York Times Health reporter Gretchen Reynolds writes in the article “An ‘Awe Walk’ Might Do Wonders for Your Well-Being”:
“Consciously watching for small wonders in the world around you during an otherwise ordinary walk could amplify the mental health benefits of the stroll, according to an interesting new psychological study of what the study’s authors call “awe walks.”
In the study, people who took a fresh look at the objects, moments and vistas that surrounded them during brief, weekly walks felt more upbeat and hopeful in general than walkers who did not.”
A podcast with a timely message
Sometimes when I walk I listen to podcasts. Today I tuned into Michael Trainer of Peak Mind. Michael was speaking from a forest in the Great Northwest. He was talking about his time in nature during his hikes through several National Parks. He said, “Whenever I get into a place of quandary or questioning about how to best use my time, for me the best solution almost always is to get into nature. Going into nature is like having a conversation with God. And somehow when you get quiet in that place you receive incredible insights.”
Michael mentioned receiving notifications on his phone about the elections even while he was hiking. He thinks many of us are experiencing an incredible degree of stimulus which really can be agitating and disrupting to the nervous system.
I could so relate to Michael’s ponderings. “Our time, and the health in which we have to spend that time, is our greatest wealth in life. And so much of the time our attention is being hijacked. During the time of political debate and elections, our attention is being grabbed up by various news and social networks. It’s important to remind ourselves that there is a distinction I call ‘being at cause’ versus ‘being at affect’,” he says.
According to Michael, when you are ‘being at cause’ you are the source for your reality. It means that you are responsible for how you show up in relationship to that context or all the noise swirling around. And often times you wind up getting into ‘being at affect forces’ that you have very little influence or control over.
He says for many of us, we’re in a collective anxiety because we feel so ‘at affect’ to the world — the Covid-19 pandemic has upended our lives, with the presidential election the leadership of the country is up in the air, and there’s a tremendous amount of anxiety.
Listening to the areas where you can exert influence
“We can take action by voting. But when it comes to allowing all your energy or attention to be usurped by things you have very little influence over, that’s when you need to take a pause and double down on listening to the areas where you can exert influence or ‘be at cause’,” says Michael.
“We need to be extraordinarily mindful at where we can ‘be at cause’ in life and where we are ‘at affect’. Where our circles of influence intersect with our circles of concern, and double down on the areas of which we have influence. What can you control as to who you are and how you show up in the world — mental hygiene, your meditation practice. your journaling, checking in on friends and loved ones. being a source of giving and inspiration to those you care about. Double down on the areas you exert influence and you will see that your influence will grow.”
Taking a break from the noise
With Michael’s message in mind and my daily walks in my relaxation tool box, I’m making a pact to set limits on all the noise I allow (notice I used my 2020 word allow once again, love that word) in my life for the next month or longer. My focus is on the lighthouse now, the choppy waters can go out to sea.
Ooh, ooh, ooh, can’t wait to take a meditative walk tomorrow. Hope the weather stays warm and sunny.