- On January 17, 2019
I had a great time shoveling snow this weekend!
Bet that’s not what you expected me to say.
I found it very calming and energizing. So much in our life is complex, unsolvable, unfinished. Shoveling snow; I could see immediate results. I knew when I was done (at least until the weather decided a few more inches were in order and I put the boots and gloves back on for round 2).
My default on a repetitive ‘mindless’ task like snow shoveling is generally to let my mind wander while wanting to somehow accelerate time so I can be finished. This time I tried something different—I treated it as a mindfulness exercise.
The American Psychological Association defines mindfulness as a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment. Mindfulness has been proven to reduce stress, enhance working memory, improve the ability to focus and cognitive flexibility, and increase relationship satisfaction. Who knew I could get all that from shoveling snow?
This time I turned shoveling snow into an opportunity to practice being fully present and appreciating being healthy and strong. I activated my brain to stay focused and aware of the experience. When it wandered off, I pulled it back to this moment to notice the experience.
The scrape of the shovel blade cracking through the underlayment of ice, hitting the asphalt.
The micro-muscle movements that were twitching to carefully balance a shovel piled high with frozen slush the plow had thrown in our path and walk it a few yards to the small mountain I was piling up at the edge of the yard.
Cutting into a glistening white untouched patch.
How brilliant the red berries on the nandina look against the frosting of white on their green leaves.
Using perfect squat form to lift with the legs not the back (my trainer would be proud!).
Consciously engaging my core as I lifted.
Feeling the stretch in my under-used obliques when I tossed a load.
At the end of two hours, I felt incredibly peaceful (and a little sore and ready to reward myself with a hot cocoa).
There’s a hill near our house and as the morning warmed a bit, the kids and sleds came out. We live in a neighborhood that takes care of each other. Neighbors who offer to shovel each other’s driveways when someone is in a bind. Neighbors checking in on neighbors…need anything? Hi neighbor! How’s the sledding?
A day of snow brings out the best in people, don’t you think?
What is an activity you can turn into a mindfulness practice this week?
What do you notice during the activity and at the end?
Is there anything different?
Photo: JMaliszewski, 2019, Nandina in Snow