I complain to Chris that I dread our late afternoon walks. Our beagle Calvin is really stubborn and drags on the leash, while Trevor whines that he hates walks. He often wanders off the road to pick up giant branches and then asks me to carry them because they’re so heavy. Meanwhile, I think about the dinner I need to cook and the classwork I want to finish and stress myself out.
But I tried a different approach to our walks recently.
As usual, Tru whined and complained about going on a walk and lagged far behind Calvin’s pace. But instead of yelling at Tru to hurry and catch up, I stopped with him.
He showed me how he was picking up rocks and dropping them into a small stream by the side of the road. One by one, he threw each stone as far as he could. We listened to see which one made the loudest splash.
Next we walked by some really tall grass with soft feathery tips, and Trevor wanted to pick the tallest stems. So Trevor continued on, holding a 7-foot stem of grass in each hand, with his arms stretched as high as he could toward the sky. He paused at every tree or lamppost to see if he could reach the top. We brushed the feathery grass on our cheeks. Surprisingly, it felt as soft as silk and smelled like fresh parsley from the garden.
Tru found a puddle and paused to stir it with a stick. When he stopped, we noticed that the full moon was coming out. We happened to be standing in such a way that we could see its reflection in the water.
It was a surreal moment, gazing at clouds floating across a glowing moon, all beneath our feet.
When we got back home, I went to the laundry room at the top of the stairs. I suddenly felt a tickle on my neck and saw Tru standing at the bottom of the stairs, still holding the 7-foot grass. He seriously explained, “I was just trying to wave at you Mom, but I didn’t feel like going up the stairs so I’m waving the grass instead.” I couldn’t stop laughing.
What started as an ordinary walk is now a special memory.
That was the time I dropped all of my complaining thoughts and worry thoughts and to-do-list thoughts and just focused on experiencing the walk the way Trevor experiences the walk.
What I found was a deep connection with Trevor and our surroundings. And in that connection, I found joy.
I hope Tru felt it too!
That was the time Trevor taught me that a walk doesn’t have to be about leaving the house just so I can get back home again. A walk could also be about experiencing each moment of the walk.
Instead of complaining about the weather and worrying about the thing that happened earlier and stressing about the issues that are coming up tomorrow. Just being there on the walk.
I came across an essay by Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) where he describes the practice of mindfulness meditation. It really reminded me of that walk with Tru. Here’s an adaptation of what he said:
We don’t have much time together; we’re too busy. In the morning while eating breakfast, we don’t look at the person we love, we don’t have enough time for it. We eat very quickly while thinking about other things, and sometimes we even hold a phone that hides the face of the person we love.
To love is, above all, to be there. But being there isn’t an easy thing. Some training is necessary, some practice. Being there is very much an art, the art of meditation, because meditating is bringing your true presence to the here and now. The question that arises is:
Do you have time to love?
-adapted from Thich Nhat Hanh
Thay teaches that mindfulness meditation is very simple: we just take the time to notice the parts of our day that we otherwise overlook or ignore.
If we stop to pay attention to the actual moments of our day as they happen – the silky feeling of tall grass, the sound of laughter, the surprising sight of the moon in water – we have a resource for real and deep connection with our children.
Making a decision to be mindful and take notice can feel really strange at first – maybe too simple or too slow – but that’s okay. The will to try is all that matters. That’s why mindfulness meditation is called a “practice.”
One of my most overwhelming discoveries as a parent is that children make time race by at lightening speed! I frequently find myself unable to fall sleep at night, for example, due to my panic over how quickly Tru is finishing up his kindergarten year. Mindfulness is the only method I’ve ever tried that actually helps me cope with the rapid passage of time and his relentless growing.
When I’m with Trevor and I remember to stop and look deeply, the moment is always complete and fulfilling. And I can hold the reassurance that every future moment will be too, as long as I’m fully present.
The most precious gift you can give to the one you love is your true presence. – Thich Nhat Hanh