Websites: Mysoulpurposeproject.com Inbalancetherapeutics.net
Photo Credit to Diane Connolly Borton
I love walking in the woods. It offers the perfect combination of exercise, fresh air, nature, and time to contemplate. For years, I took regular treks (through the cold of winter and the bugs of summer) with a couple of close friends and our dogs and it provided an excellent chance to connect. We shared ideas and experiences, laughed at each other’s jokes, and gave advice when needed. I remember frequently getting into long conversations and losing myself in deep thought. Then, at some point, I would inevitably look up and realize I had no idea where I was. Luckily, my friends knew the trails and would lead me out safely.
I use to pass this off as my natural ability to “be in the moment,” and it’s true. I have always been good at mindfulness, even before it was vogue. It is fairly easy for me to live in the present while keeping my worries and fears at bay (most of the time). I am grateful for the ability to zoom in to the now and experience the close up view. However, there is a flip side.
When I am immersed in the moment, I lose awareness of time or get off track with my “to do” list. I am late to meetings and am not able to move as quickly towards my goals. Sometimes, I get lost in the woods.
Recently, I have been taking more walks alone and exploring a variety of unknown terrain with my partner. In both cases, I have needed to pay attention to where I was going. I have made note of trail intersections, special landmarks, and other identifiers and have paused occasionally to review my route. I have consistently looked forward and backward expanding my depth of field and have gotten better at navigating as a result.
One day last week, however, when I was on my morning stroll, I had gotten absorbed in thought and by the time I came out of it, I had lost my bearings. I solved the problem I was contemplating but at a cost, and this got me thinking.
Is it possible to immerse yourself in the present moment while also paying attention to where you’ve been and what lies ahead?
In her blog post, How to Be Present While Still Planning for the Future, Heidi Hill points out that, “Life satisfaction generally requires a balance of being and planning.” She suggests 3 ways to do this: Set goals, but let go of your expectations; Plan for the future, but don’t waste your time worrying about the future; Balance planning with action.
I started to think about how I might apply this concept to my life. Could I continue to practice the art of mindfulness while periodically checking in on my goals and overall plan? Could I be in the moment in the context of where I’d already been?
As I continued my walk, I began altering my focus between where I was on the path and what I could see up ahead, much like the aperture of a camera. It dawned on me that this was a beautiful metaphor for my mindfulness practice and that in order to move closer to my life’s purpose, I would need to do both, knowing when and how to adjust.