Saturday, Oh Saturday

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A hike in morning to clear the mind
Space inside my brain I find

Nature draws away my stress
Feelings of relaxation are the best

Soon it is a quiet afternoon
A time to rest and whistle a tune

I write down thoughts as they come
Word after word, there’s more than┬ásome

I seek a book I can read out loud
No one can hear my voice, a sound

And so I close my eyes for a nap
Then my book, it falls in my lap

Another great Saturday, its’ a winner
Before I know it, it’s time for dinner

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To Plan or Not to Plan?

Sometimes the best laid plans are better off thrown out the window. On Saturday I learned (or remembered) that the best things in life are unplanned. I recalled a trip from several years ago where I stumbled upon a national park in New Mexico called El Morro. It was a hidden gem in the middle of nowhere that provided amazing views and a memory for a lifetime. So what fun did I discover in my spur of the moment Saturday? Spontaneity? A feeling of freedom? Or just plain fun?

The day started with a last-minute decision to go to the Japanese Friendship Garden in downtown Phoenix. It was a place I learned of months prior. The gardens provided an oasis of peaceful energy nestled between high-rise apartments and athletic fields. I sat meditating quietly overlooking the waterfall while the sun bathed me. A foreign woman asked to take my photo. Maybe my true bliss and happiness were evident to her or maybe I just blended into the peaceful environment. I guess I was supposed to be in a stranger’s photo album that day. It was only 10 AM and there was a lot of daylight left, so where to next?

A drive to Canyon Lake was the final decision as the next stop after the White Tanks and Squaw Peak ideas were thrown out. The drive to Canyon Lake along the winding roads and single lane bridges was beautiful. After arriving at the marina and exploring the possibility of kayaking I discovered that a warmer day, warmer lake temperature, and a swimsuit were required for a fun kayaking experience. Now what? The conveniently located Boulder Canyon Trailhead at the marina enabled a journey to a very high place above the canyon and a 360 degree view of the area. It was amazing. A return trip down the trail and a discussion about going to Blue Wasabi made the trip back to the car quick and painless. Thoughts of sushi danced in my head as my feet scrambled over the rocks in the last section of the trail.

What seemed like only minutes later I arrived at Blue Wasabi. It was almost happy hour. How could I be so lucky? Numerous sushi rolls later it was evident that the activities from the day had tired me. All that was left to do was to head home for a relaxing evening on the patio as the sun set. With vodka and orange juice over ice, the sun set and my energy waned further resulting in canceled plans for salsa dancing. Did I really care? No! The unplanned activities ruled and were more rewarding than anything I could have planned.

When you go with the flow and yield to the day’s opportunities, you really feel like you are living. Instead of scurrying around to meet the schedule of the clock, you work with the moment. What better way to live? Imagine if every day could be so carefree. Next time you have the opportunity, you may want to ‘unplan’ your day and see what adventures you find. You may surprise and exhaust yourself. Living life to the fullest has a way of doing that.

A new form of meditation: The Oreo cookie

As Paige was eating an Oreo cookie after dinner tonight, she closed her eyes as she savored the taste of the cookie. For a moment it looked like she was meditating. I wondered if it was possible for an Oreo to trigger a meditative state. Seeing her like that made me think about how I feel when I am hiking or even writing. If it was possible that she could meditate eating an Oreo cookie, how many other ways was it possible to meditate?

Yesterday was Sunday, my day to refresh and clear my mind. No, I didn’t go to church, but I do have a place for my own form of prayer as it were. On a Sunday morning or Sunday afternoon I love to head out with the family for a hike (assuming Tucker has not hidden at the neighbor’s house to avoid the hike). Also hiking is seasonal even in Arizona. For some reason I can’t get excited about heading out on a hike at 2 in the afternoon when it is 118 degrees. Maybe if it was only 102, just not 118. I had been waiting weeks for the opportunity to hike (when it wasn’t pouring down rain) and my body was feeling like it had been ‘missing out’ on something these last few weeks. Was it possible that meditation was what my body was missing?

There is something ritualistic about strapping on hiking boots with leather that has been scratched with wear and are so covered with dirt that it is impossible to see the original color of the boots. Boots should be well broken in, and mine certainly were – even for this relatively short hike. For those who know me as a bit of a tomboy, they would be surprised to know that I wear a skirt to hike in Arizona. REI really knows their stuff, so if they sell a quick-dry, brown skirt with numerous pockets, I feel obligated to hike in it. I realize I live in Arizona (and the heat doesn’t require it) but I still wear wool hiking socks. Either I am too cheap or too lazy to buy new ones, but I patiently wait for them to wear out so I can purchase new ones.

Hiking with two kids can be a challenge. The amount of water and snacks required to keep them happy on the journey seems to add up to the same weight as my college engineering books (combined). This is a lot more than I enjoy carrying; however, I have learned from experience that either I carry all the ‘stuff’ or listen to whining and complaining for the full length of the hike. Yesterday’s hike was planned to be over 3 miles, so 3 hours of whining? or a real ‘workout’ from carrying the extra weight? I chose the weight. I guess another option would be earplugs, but that would just defeat the purpose of relaxing to the sounds of nature.

On the hike yesterday I wandered along the narrow and winding path, with Paige shuffling along in front of me, and I felt like I was in another world. It was quiet. The ground was covered in a green carpet rarely seen in Arizona. The wildflowers were amazing. Poppies were a beautiful orange-yellow and everywhere you could find these teeny tiny flowers. I had escaped my busy life and my blackberry for a few hours and all I could focus on was the scenery (and of course keeping the kids moving along and nourished). For me, hiking is so much like meditating because the mind seems to be ‘free’ to finally relax and escape the over-stimulation of daily life. Writing actually has a similar effect on me. I am not sure why, but something happens during both of these activities that is so similar, yet so different.

Whether you go for a hike, sit on your patio to listen to the birds chirp, go to your local church for a sermon, or you have some other tradition you like to do on Sundays (or any other day for that matter) you should savor this meditation time. With the overflow of text messages, e-mails, and mental demands it is nice to escape that for a while. I am looking forward to trying a new form of meditation soon…over an Oreo cookie. I think Paige has something there.