Paying Attention On My Morning Walk

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I noticed the first feeling about 20 minutes into the walk. I’m sure there were many others before this one. It’s just that I happened to perceive this one and pay attention.

It wasn’t new — a familiar combination of anger, regret, disappointment, and a general wishing I could go back and do things over again.

Amazing how clear things can be at 6:30 on a November morning in New England: quiet streets, sun peeking over the horizon and glinting off boats at rest in the harbor, such peace.

I decided I would let this feeling go today, never to return. In the clarity of the crisp morning air (leaves falling, about 38 degrees), I could see how events configured themselves back then and led to what happened. As life events go, this one had fairly low impact, and it was a good opportunity to practice.

Further along in the walk, other thoughts and associated feelings arose — a difficult work relationship, strained friendship, and concern for a family member among them.

I began to notice each feeling sooner, before I was too far down the path of shenpa and its accompanying stuckness. Buddhists talk about watching feelings arise, peak, and fade away. I understood. I was experiencing this phenomenon as I walked along. I noticed the budding feeling, breathed in deeply, stayed with it (so very interesting) and watched it peak and fade away.

This time of year, emotions abound, some I welcome and some I’d rather avoid. Family gatherings, weather-dependent travel and unfamiliar traditions and customs offer more practice opportunities than perhaps I would wish for.

Paying Attention

As my feelings continued to arise, peak and fade, I felt lucky that morning to have the experience of resistance, then connection, with each one; of being present; watching them change and move on.

Conflict, stress, difficult relationships — it’s tempting to repress or act the feelings out in unhelpful ways. When I can be present instead, I have power. There it is, there it goes. Watching moment to moment. Not taking me away from myself, but showing me all of the ways I exist, resist, feel, think, and seek perfection.

Maybe tomorrow I won’t notice so soon, maybe the feelings will overwhelm. And, I know what’s possible. May I be grateful for each new opportunity to practice.

Suggested reading on this topic:

· Pema Chodron, Getting Unstuck
· Dan Harris, 10% Happier
· Thich Nhat Hahn, Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames
· Judy Ringer, Unlikely Teachers: Finding the Hidden Gifts in Daily Conflict

Written by

Judy Ringer is the author of Turn Enemies Into Allies: The Art of Peace in the Workplace and Unlikely Teachers: Finding the Hidden Gifts in Daily Conflict.

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