By Debra LeClair Psy.D.
This is one of those times of year where we especially long for change and welcome the absence of tension that comes with the departure of winter. Nature feels more benevolent and nurturing of us—the sights, the feel of the sun and the air refreshed by the prior season’s coolness and now infused with the fragrance of the blossoming trees and flowers.
The energy that often accompanies this transition sprouts up because it is new. The newness has caught our attention and can help us move into mindfulness—defined by staying in the here and now of the moment. I know I really want to be in this moment and find that joy is generated by simply placing my attention on the little things that otherwise would go unnoticed.
For me personally, this shift into spring coincides with listening to a recording of a Thich Nhat Hanh (a contemporary Vietnamese Buddhist monk) retreat on cultivating mindfulness. I consider him the master of the walking meditation and appreciate his teachings that have been augmented by others. As you walk—whether it’s through nature or a city street, really pay attention to your body moving through space. Tune into the sensation of air moving over your skin and the feel of the bottom surface of your feet coming into contact with the ground.
Something specific that Thich Nhat Hanh shares is to imagine your feet kissing the earth as a way of expressing gratitude—while also staying connected to the present moment. I love this because it is such an appealing idea that no one even has to know you are doing. You can also engage in this a little at a time, building your capacity around mindfulness while moving away from mindlessness. Mindlessness encompasses the mental and emotional chatter that clutters our experience. Having a few ways to let this go helps to clean out the negativity that pervades our thoughts, often more than we realize. Practicing mindfulness, even a little at a time empowers us to better decide what to keep in our consciousness and what to toss.
“Life can be found only in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.”
–Thich Nhat Hanh