Noise isn't just an external factor.
An enveloping term. A present and true state of being. A buzzword.
The definition: The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
Seems simple enough, right? Well, the most simple tasks sometimes seem to be the hardest to truly employ. Also, by this definition, one could really be "mindful" of many things all at once that would simply cloud and overwhelm the mind which is counterproductive to what we're trying to achieve here.
The kind of mindfulness we're going for is this: A calm mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment.
Yes. This is more like it. You see, we all must go about our daily lives being mindful of ourselves relative to others...we do live in organized societies for the most part....but the bigger picture is this: that we must all become better at being present in the moment, of being mindful of what's right in front of us, of realizing that it is impossible to live in the past or in the future.
There's no soapbox here. I am human. My mind can be all over the place like everyone else. The world of instantaneous response and stimuli has exponentially expanded this notion. I see it in my wonderful boy...who has the kindest, purest heart by the way, and who is far from an ADD or ADHD type. But his attention is constantly going from this to that and past to future to present back to future.... I know kids are energetic. I know that we are here in this life to grow, learn and evolve. I know times and technology change. I'm not saying it's bad or good, just that it is. Kids today just have more and quicker stimuli that in the past.
I see it in older folks...many incessantly discuss the past and how it used to be...how "things are going downhill." They long for the past while fearing the future, eyes and ears glued to the rhetoric of the "news" which they'll repeat all day every day to those who will listen as if that is a part of everyone's "reality."
Speaking of longing for the future, let's talk about my generation with our incessant obsession with "what is my purpose" and "why am I here" and "what does the future hold for me." And we're so fixated on what we don't want that we rarely move to what we do want and so we're left living out the choices that we made that don't even seem like choices but more like circumstance.
What to does this have to do with mindfulness? And seriously...how does this relate to the outdoors?!
Answers: Everything. And let me show you...
How many times are you working a stellar riffle only to have your mind keep drifting to the email you forgot to send this morning or the fact that you have to take the kids out of town tomorrow to the soccer tournament? Personally, that's been such a battle for me over the years...I've escaped the noise of the everyday, I'm standing in an unbelievably gorgeous place only to realize I've brought the noise with me in my head.
I can't tell you how many clients I've had on the river that have a hard time being present in what they're doing for more than five minutes at a time. I've seen so many lines pulled taught by the current downstream below the boat only to look back and see the rear fisherman sitting there, head down, staring at a phone. I've seen them cast and cast and cast and cast without even getting a drift only to look up at the blank stare on their face and realize they're not even here with me on the water...they're drifting to some far away to-do list or future business meeting or past argument with a spouse.
Again, this isn't an indictment. This is simply observation. This is an awareness for a realization that....
THE ONLY THING THAT EXISTS IS THE NOW. THERE IS NO PAST...NO FUTURE..JUST THE PRESENT.
I heard someone describe life as a meter-stick. To the left, the past, to the right, the future. Right in the middle is the now. Most of us go about in a state of overwhelm as we gaze left and right at the stick's entirety. To live fully and with so much less noise, we must focus at the the centimeter or so right in the middle...and that's it!
Mindfulness in the moment comes by practice. It isn't something that most of us are born with. It takes effort...and it's worth it. This doesn't mean that we can't have fond memories or plan and save for the future, just that those should be done intentionally and not simply set as our mind's default mode. Live life purposely, being conscious in the moment, moment to moment. This is part of living life intentionally instead of reacting to it.
Fly fishing is meditation. Hiking is meditation. These outdoor activities that we love are (or should truly be) meditation. They are all mindful, connected, centering practices to quell the noise and quite the internal monologue. Yoga is a mindful, connected, centering practice. Floating down a river is a mindful, connected, centering practice. These are all integral notions in living a Downstream lifestyle.
From the Downstream website, regarding life itself:
"...life should feel like a flowing river....with relative ease, purpose of course, and building momentum...not a fight against a raging current."
Quieting the internal chatter, including my own voice in my head, has been one of the most important things in the way I do life these past few years. The relief, the clarity, the state of being present in the now...they are all brought to the forefront as the chatter and noise melt away. There are still days that I struggle to quiet things but this is why it's called a practice. I don't then worry that I've failed but simply keep up the practice knowing that things will quiet themselves again and I'll be better off and further along after. It's been an absolute gift to me and I hope it lands well with you too!
Tight lines, happy trails, namaste, and all the other well-wishes to you ;)