(Mindfully) Exercising Liberty
I've been at home for nearly two weeks.
In many ways it has been something of an epiphany. Exercising Liberty, our gorgeous Golden Retriever, has been part of a new routine that I plan to keep on my daily agenda. Each morning we have walked through the woods and across the fields; striding out in the morning air and enjoying the golden light (even if the iPhone struggled a little...) has been a joy. Liberty has really enjoyed the walks, meeting me with keen anticipation as I have put on my boots and picked up her lead.
I've been really curious about my own response to our morning walks too. The exercise has been great and much needed, but it also felt difficult to 'switch off' and relax into the moment. To begin with, I was marching along while listening to podcasts and other recordings that meant I could justify the 50 minutes that it would take me to walk my route each morning. It wasn't until I listened to a Tara Brach interview by Tim Ferris that I remembered about how 'Type A' personalities tend to treat relaxation as just another item on their 'to do' list...
In 'On Dialogue', David Bohm says that, 'When we see a "problem," [...] we then say, "We have got to solve that problem." But we are constantly producing that problem - not just that particular problem, but that sort of problem - by the way we go on with our thought.' He goes on, '... what I am trying to say is that thought is the problem.'
For me, it has become clear that the problem is not my burgeoning 'To Do' list and how I should apply myself to the various tasks.... I know how to DO that stuff - and I'm good at it.... And so I rely on my organisational skills to get things into order and then I work ever harder. As you might expect, the solution to the problem has neatly held the problem in place. As Bohm says, getting myself out of this kind of routine means that I need to reflect carefully on the thought that produces the problem in the first place.
Gradually, I began to slow down and take each moment of the morning walk with Liberty more mindfully; simply enjoying the moment rather than constantly planning how the rest of my day might work out. As I've taken time to consider how the problem of the 'To Do' list actually works, I have learned to 'see' the routines, fears and coping strategies that embed the issue into my psyche.
And, slowly, I've changed my walks too.
Sometimes I might catch up on a podcast. Sometimes I'll listen to music. Or poetry. Or simply enjoy the morning, the light, the dew on the grass and the boundless energy of a two-year old Golden Retriever.
But mostly, I concentrate on how I am thinking, how I can be choiceful about my day and how I can best apply myself to my work and relationships.
Of course, in our often brutal modern world, this is a tremendously privileged position to hold.
But, it feels like a very appropriate way to be exercising Liberty.