Thanksgiving came and went and I took it upon myself to reflect back on this special holiday. I wanted to share with you my personal experiences with being both mindful and thankful.
As I mentioned in my previous post, my fiancé and I traveled up to north Georgia (with my two crazy dogs) to enjoy a relaxing few days in the mountains over Thanksgiving. We stayed in a small 2 bedroom cabin that was located off this steep windy road just outside Blue Ridge. We had found this place using VRBO (which is a site we typically use when we travel). Our plan was to relax, take daily walks with the dogs along one of the many of the trails in the area, do a little shopping, and play some games (we are big fans of board games!). We also wanted to disconnect from the world a bit. Which we somewhat did. To be honest, I have a slight addiction to Facebook, podcasts, and reading interesting tidbits of information on one of the many subjects I love to learn about – mindfulness, business, occupational therapy, jewelry making, blogging, and real estate. But I made a conscious effort to limit my time on my phone and laptop so that I could fully experience the weekend without the distractions of the outside world.
I decided to break down my experiences using the categories of the 5 senses. It seemed like the best way to organize my information in a logical and consistent manner. However I want to note that I did daily mindfulness when I could, depending on where I was. Sometimes it was for 30 seconds while other times it was up to 2 minutes. To say it was an easy task to undertake is an understatement. I found it difficult to sustain my attention long enough to engage in mindfulness. I don’t want to discourage anyone by saying that. However I want to be honest and share with you my personal experiences. As I have read (and even experienced on my own), this is a process and with time and consistent practice engaging in mindfulness will become easier. When I first began practicing mindfulness my mind went a bazillion miles a minute! I couldn’t stop the endless stream of thoughts going through my mind. You will experience this too. This is common and not something to be worried or concerned about. Everyone who initially engages in mindfulness will experience this. It’s completely and utterly normal. I will say (to hopefully make you see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel) that now my mind is not travelling at the speed of light. Instead, periodic thoughts travel through my mind and then travel on. It’s not empty (and it’s not supposed to be). It’s a quieter, less hectic journey that makes me feel calmer and less crazy! I’m now working on engaging in mindfulness for longer periods of time and on a more consistent basis. Life’s a process and we all have to start somewhere and continue to work on it.
So now that I have rambled on about mindfulness and my personal journey, let’s get back to what this blog is supposed to be about….incorporating being both mindful and thankful during Thanksgiving.
I smelled the cold air all around me. It was an amazing sensation taking in that cold air. It felt so refreshing. There were several instances when I would just step outside the cabin onto the porch, and take in several deep breaths. That cold air smelled fresh and clean. Closing my eyes and taking in some deep breaths was all I needed to start the day (except of course a nice hot cup of coffee)! You just don’t experience that in central Florida. That’s not to say that it’s smog-filled or polluted. It just has that different smell.
One of the first things I noticed as we were traveling up to Blue Ridge was the scenery. Since I live in central Florida, the weather hardly changes from one season to another. Basically it’s warm, hot, very hot, wet and hot, warm, and then for a split second, cool. As a result the vegetation barely changes. Leaves stay on the trees. We don’t experience any color changes. So it’s usually pretty green 365 days of the year. One of the most unusual sights you will see (if you’re from up north) is palm trees decorated with Christmas lights in December. I can’t tell you the number of time, I’ve actually forgotten the time of year because the weather is virtually the same year-round. I have to consciously remember that it’s cold, dark, and gloomy in January and that shorts and a t-shirt just won’t do in Michigan. So to experience cold (the temperatures did dip into the 30s and 40s), was a nice change. I would like to add that I despise the cold in general (that’s why I live in Florida!). But periodic travels to northern climates is great because it allows me to experience the cold and enjoy the seasons. Being up in northern Georgia during that time of year was amazing! The colors we saw were breathtaking! I would just stop and stare at the beauty of Mother Nature before me. The colors were so vivid! Reds were an amazing red. Yellows were golden. Oranges were crisp. Everywhere I looked around I saw and took in nature. On one of our walks, I stopped, took in these incredible colors, and was mindful of where I was and who I was with. I snapped like 3 dozen photos of trees that were all around me, like a tourist. I captured some of these colors in the following pictures.
However the photos don’t do it justice. On another occasion, we were walking by the cabin and I saw a leaf twirling in the air and slowly land in amongst an increasing pile of leaves. Seeing how gracefully it floated down encouraged me to slow down even more, so I could take in all I saw and experienced.
Everywhere around me was quiet. Not eerily quiet but just relaxing quiet. It was very peaceful. Until of course we heard the leaf blower start up by our next door neighbors at 7:30 in the morning! But besides that slight annoyance, the natural sounds were tranquil. It allowed me to think about and focus on some ideas I have for my mindfulness jewelry that I’m creating. All of that busy body nonsense noise that we are constantly hearing in the city was not present. Although I didn’t make any jewelry, it gave me the opportunity to explore some ideas that I had. Early one morning, my fiancé called me to the porch. I heard some rustling of leaves and looked in the direction of where he was pointing. There in front of us was a deer. Ok so a deer may not be that exciting for most. However to see it up close, just going about its day, was remarkable.
My fiancé is a pescetarian. So of course that makes cooking Thanksgiving dinner super fun (note the sarcasm) since he doesn’t eat meat. We have a mutual respect for our choices and we work around them. So we typically celebrate this holiday with making a salmon meal (since we both love the fish and have several recipes). As we sat down to savor our Thanksgiving dinner together, it was hard not to devour it all in a couple of large forkfuls. But I became mindful of my eating and was able to enjoy it immensely (we make a mean maple syrup salmon!) by slowing down and enjoying each biteful. The sweet potato pie was not as lucky (however I enjoyed that immensely too but not for very long).
Everywhere we touched, we touched nature. You couldn’t avoid it. Of course why would you want to?!?!?! Experiencing this wonderful tactile sensation made it real to me. Nature grounds us. What more can I say?
So while Thanksgiving is now over, and we have returned to our respective lives – jobs, responsibilities, planning a wedding, etc – as a write this post I think back to my experiences in Blue Ridge. Attempting to be mindful is not an easy thing to do (nor should it be). But engaging in this daily practice (whether it be for 30 seconds or 30 minutes, the time doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you participate in practicing mindfulness in order to appreciate and be thankful for what we have. We thoroughly enjoyed Blue Ridge and everything we did. I’m thankful of our visit there and that our experiences will live on in our memories (and my extensive tourist-like collection of photos!).