Photo by Catherine McMahon

Photo by Julia Caesar on Unsplash

“Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen.
Keep in the sunlight.” – Benjamin Franklin

Today I am tired. I worry about the work that needs to get done, the food that needs to be cooked and the laundry that needs to be washed. There are letters to be written, animals that need to be cared for, errands to run.

My mind is full of chaos and worry. So I carefully dodge the traffic and walk across the busy street from my office to the park.

This park is simply an athletic field of mown grass, not meant for meditation or peaceful contemplation. With the exception of short grass, the field is barren.

I begin to wander around the edge of the field. I feel my mind going back to the day’s concerns and things I need to do. Here begins my journey of mindfulness, a deliberate way to clear my mind and be fully present in the moment.

As I stand in the field, I use my senses of sight and sound and smell and feeling to crowd out concerns and worries.

I look to the edges of the field and notice the thick boundary of dense growth I cannot see through. There are wild bushes and vines, trees and flowers. Stoic blue cornflowers. Delicate Queen Anne’s lace. Yellow daisy blooms and massive waist high thistles.

There are small alcoves within these plants and trees. I have to duck down to see them, but once in, there is a gentle peacefulness, small spaces that feel secure and magical. The sheltered cove is a small refuge of sorts from traffic and noise and chaos. At the very back of this refuge is a tall chainlink fence, the only thing separating this wild space from the freeway.

I walk on, and again I notice unwanted thoughts creeping in. It is hard to stay in the moment and push out the concerns of the day.

In response, I tune into the birds that surround me in the thicket. I try to focus on each individual sound. I recognize the call of a cardinal and a red winged black bird, the annoyingly loud noise of cicadas. I hear the traffic beyond the protective radius of nature.

When my mind starts to fill with problems, I focus on my sense of smell. It’s the season for honeysuckle, and I breathe it in. I identify mown grass and the exhaust of the truck in the parking lot. I smell the dirt and the mud, the earthly fragrances.

Evey time a troubling or worrisome thought invades, I notice it and then let it go. Like a wave on the beach, I watch it come and leave.

I fill my mind with my sense of feeling. I use my hands to touch the bark of a branch and the prick of a thistle. My feet sink into the muddy grass. I walk in the woods and feel the hard, compact soil. I step on branches. I feel spider webs across my face and try to brush them off.

When my mind is busy, I tune into the things around me to feel centered. By deliberately singling out my senses of smell, hearing, sight, and feeling,  I force my thoughts away from the busy and worrisome ideas floating in my head.

In the end, concern about paperwork that is due is replaced by focusing on each leaf of the vines. My internal debate about what to cook for dinner is shut out when I intensely listen to the birds and cicadas and even to my own quiet heartbeat.  When my mind goes back to the daily aggravations, to-dos, and stresses, I make a point to acknowledge the texture of the ground and the uncomfortable stickiness of webs that wrap themselves across my face. I breathe in sweet honeysuckle and mild dusky thickets.

I leave calmer. Happier. Centered. I end with the quote I began with, from Benjamin Franklin.

“Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen.
Keep in the sunlight.” 

And so now, today, I choose to push away my troubles and stay in the gorgeous warmth of the sunlight.