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A mindful walk with Hafiz

As I was searching for the Christmas lights and decorations, I found an old book, "A Year with Hafiz; daily contemplations." by Daniel Ladinsky. Sometimes, it's what I find inside of these old books that are more interesting; a 10-year-old receipt from a bookstore in the US that no longer exists, a scrap of paper with some basic math calculations and a friend's name on it, dogged eared corners of particular poems that spoke to me then. Like a fingerprint, these clues help me remember that younger version of me and where I was in my mind and in my life at that time.

I took myself for a walk this morning and brought Hafiz with me. I stopped and read a few pages, then tucked the book into my oversized coat and continued on. "I need bigger pockets," I thought. In between, I enjoyed the feeling of crunchy snow under my boots. With hardly a birdsong present, I stood still for several moments and enjoyed the sound of silence. "Yep," I paused and inwardly agreed with Murakami, "silence is actually a sound."

I often have my best ideas (at least, I think they're pretty good) while I'm walking forward, either fast or slowly, and often, by myself. I make notes, stick them in books, pockets, or fanny packs, only to be unearthed at a later time. Sometimes helpful. Sometimes not. Always, they seem to be important at the time.

These trees are witnesses to a flurry of thoughts, ideas, and sometimes silence. I wonder what it would be like if they could see inside my mind (as I imagine the top of my head as a window), from the height of their treetops. If they could tell a story of me, it would be a story of the highs and lows of being a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. My fears and my dreams...lots and lots of dreams and often stillness. The trees never judge, they never shame, nor do they encourage. They always provide their steady, non-judgmental presence, and rooted support.

Today the trees bore witness to thoughts about the New Year. In years past I would try to bring something new or inspirational to my yoga community; snow-salutations, 30-day yoga challenge, 21-day meditation motivation, my "6-week course in mindfulness" was born just before the new year, many years ago. I will continue to move forward with these ideas as I find it a wonderful way to engage with my community.

As the years go by, there is a certain softening with my own views about...well, nearly everything, but today about the New Year. A while back, like a bull at a gate, Brian and I would approach New Year with ideas of how to live healthier; eat and move better. Most of it was born from a sense of wanting to feel, sleep and move better sprinkled with a little post-holiday feeling of lethargy. Today, I see how my own perspective has softened.

I continue to focus on the small habits I can do consistently over time rather than intense change. Consistency over intensity has been the key to a long-time yoga and mindfulness meditation practice, without getting injured, burnt out, or bored.

I recently re-watched the TedTalk by Neuroscientist Richard Davidson who talks about the neuroscience behind mindfulness practices; like meditation and yoga. The science which supports these practices is compelling and can give us the motivation for consistent practice.

In this talk, Davidson shares how the wiring in our brains is not fixed, it's adaptable, and that we can train our minds for better health and well-being. He explains, there are two different kinds of learning; declarative and procedural. We need both. Declarative learning is learning about things; reading or studying about something. We can read and study about kindness, but it won't necessarily make us kinder. We need a second kind of learning called procedural learning. Procedural learning operates through totally different brain circuits. An example is brushing our teeth. We weren't born with this habit, but we cultivated it which leads to a better state of health.

Mindfulness meditation is procedural learning. When we make time for mindfulness practice, we can harness the power of neuroplasticity to change our brain. I recommend starting with 10 minutes per day. Find the type of practice that resonates with you. There are many; breath awareness, body scan, walking meditation, and meditating on sound. Your yoga practice; if practiced with non-judgemental attention onto the body, can be your meditation. Practicing yoga while mentally doing your Christmas shopping in your mind will still benefit your body, but you'll benefit your mind so much more if you practice while giving your body your full, non-judgmental attention.

As you consider the ways you'd like to contribute to your health and well-being in 2022, think about those small practices you can do consistently over time.

For was a mindful walk under the trees with Hafiz.

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