Mindful Morning Walks

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We go on a lot of walks these days. Slow walks. Walks with no place or purpose in mind. Okay, we may happen upon our corner market for a chocolate croissant and iced latte from time to time. But the point is, we linger. We dilly dally. We watch squirrels tiptoe along telephone wires and butterflies flutter amid trees. We gently pet dogs out on their own walks.

We stop and smell the roses, literally.

We are lucky to live in such an active neighborhood, which makes getting out of the house on foot that much easier. Most mornings after breakfast we throw on our shoes (and hats and sunscreen) and head out for fresh air.

Despite walking the same blocks for over six years now, we have managed to meet more neighbors in these past six months than in the previous six years combined. Leave it to a very mobile, extremely curious toddler (one intent on testing every set of porch steps and gathering every flower petal) to make new introductions.

Exploring with our toddler and learning to follow her lead has opened up new ways of experiencing our neighborhood. As she discovers this complex world with such wonder and delight, I can't help but feel an almost second chance at seeing things for the first time. Children are already masters of mindfulness.

Even if you don't live in a particularly walkable neighborhood or have a little explorer by your side, mindful walks can be had wherever you find yourself strolling. Here are some of the notes we're taking from our wandering tot.

Slow your pace. The beauty of letting a child set the pace is that there is no real pace. They meander as they please, with no mind to timelines, or property lines for that matter. Slowing down enough to feel the rhythm of your stride and the ground beneath your feet can change walking from mere transportation to enjoyable activity.

Talk to neighbors. Not everyone is eager to wave hello at the gawking toddler, but to those who are, we stop and say good morning. And even the grumpiest looking passerby just might soften at our greeting. Sometimes the smallest "hello" is all someone (including myself) needs to feel connected in our fast paced, easily isolating world.

Enjoy small wonders. A tiny puddle, an intricate pattern of pavers, a bustling ant mound. It's amazing what small details a child notices, things we adults so easily overlook. Opening our eyes to notice the wonders of our immediate world can make seeing the same old thing feel new again. We could all use a bit more childlike wonder in our lives.

Carry your reusables. Bags for groceries, canisters for coffee. Easily filled at our local shops and even easier to tote along as we walk, with the added bonus of storing all sorts of fascinating discoveries to take home for further examination. Let's just say our rock collection game is strong.

Pick up trash. Being aware of what you're stepping over and around can be alarming. So much garbage goes unnoticed and ignored. Luckily, my sidekick thinks throwing things in the trash is a thrill. Useful and rewarding. Toting along a small trash bag and hand wipes helps the act feel less icky. We try to leave our path better than we found it.