The weather gave us a gift this weekend. We had sun, blue skies, and temperatures perfect for being outside. (Although nothing really seems to stop Germans from being outside, which I like very much.) I was out late Sunday morning revisiting a route I’d taken with a friend some weeks ago. We had looked in vain for sunshine that day and the walk was bound to feel different this time.
One thing I have always noticed about walking with my camera is that my senses are sharper, and not just my eyes. I see the world differently, but am also more aware of how it tastes, how it smells, how it feels, and where I stand within it.
In other words, the more present I am, the calmer and more peaceful I feel. The camera around my neck acts as a reminder. Likewise, the more experienced I become in meditation, the more easily awareness seeps into my everyday life. I pause more frequently, slow down, notice, breathe. This is what it means to be mindful.
Lately there have been several loving-kindness, or metta, meditations in my routine. The warmth that I experience through these practices is not unlike the warmth I experienced last weekend in the sun. The world opens wide and it calls.
What I like most about metta meditation is that it makes obvious our connection with one another. There is a physical sensation, a warm glow, that comes from that realization.
There is a warm glow that comes from wishing loving-kindness to others, similar to the sense of rejuvenation that comes from being in nature. I have learned that these are needs for me, needs rather than wants. I would like to think that I am a better person to those around me for having learned this and sought this out.
It is easy to form connections that are light and fun, to play outside on a sunny day. It is not always so easy to get out in the rain or cold, not always so easy to touch another person. But so often, it is the experience of doing exactly this, of embracing difficult conditions and searching for the light, that plants us firmly on the ground.
I feel a bit like a little kid; there’s a new season called fall and I’m playing in it all over again. (Some of you know this season as autumn rather than fall, and my favourite dictionary provides a lovely explanation as to why this might be.)
At the end of October, my Toronto family and I went for a beautiful walk an hour or so north. There was so much that reminded me of growing up and playing on the nature trails not too far from our neighbourhood. We used to climb all of the fallen logs and run through piles of leaves.
Regardless of the word you use to describe this time of year, this is the season of falling leaves and the crunch they make underfoot, of apples picked from trees and pumpkins from vines. The texture of the air changes, daylight grows shorter, shadows grow longer. Food gets warmer, coats thicker, and lush green gives way to all shades of red, orange, yellow, and finally brown before the leaves are gone entirely.
In Montreal at the beginning of November, further north and further into the season, the leaves were different yet again. Montreal is a city of bright skies and the colours made me smile at a time when smiling was difficult.
I took a walk through the park near my apartment in Weimar shortly after returning from Canada. The steel-grey sky and occasional drizzle reminded me why this time of year, just too early to start thinking about the holidays, is sometimes overlooked. But the calm and quiet of the path minimized distraction and held opportunities to experience beautiful things.
Here in Weimar, now definitively in the middle of November, we have had some very cold nights. And days, for that matter, but it’s dark at night here, very dark, and I’ve been spending time outside remembering what cold feels like. Damp cold that gets into the bones, crisp cold that leaves fingers, toes, and noses tingling, and then a brief respite from temperatures just above freezing that seem balmy by comparison. There is majesty in clear skies and sharp, brisk nights and seeing so many stars.
It’ll get colder, everyone says. Get ready.
But in the dark and the cold, surrounded by naturechanges and beneath stars, my body, mind, and heart are very much awake.
Photos, travels, musings, and ideas on education by someone trying to make the world a better and more peaceful place