Walking Mindfully

It’s 8 a.m. Time to take our resident terrier mix out for her morning constitutional. I suit up for the 25-degree temperature while Sparkle jumps up and down and runs around in circles, telling me in no uncertain terms to hurry up. I zip myself into my navy multi-pocketed puffy coat, stash house keys and cell phone, pull on my favorite, blue and grey walking shoes, and my fuzzy gloves from Switzerland, along with my sunglasses.

I step out into crisp, sun-shiny morning and I remember donning this same outfit, plus a couple of more layers of under armor—the real thing, not the brand name—for my best hike ever.

Just getting to the starting point is an adventure. It’s a hair-raising ride of several hours around improbably tight turns, nearly scraping the mountainside on one side with unprotected drop offs on the other. I’m grateful for our experienced driver—how does he make those turns in a tour bus? I lose count of the number of tunnels and half-tunnels we go through. In a valley between mountain passes a detour takes us off the narrow, winding road onto an even narrower paved walking path. I’m told it is used by villagers when winter snows make roads impassable.

On the way to the trail.

We arrive at the jumping off spot for the Kitzbüheler Horn ski area, buy cable car tickets and we are off. Up, up and away. On the ride up we are surrounded by dense forest, unbelievably tall, straight pines standing cheek to cheek, layer after layer of them, until we clear the tree line. And there is the Alpenhaus Kitzbüheler Lodge, a haven for the skiers who crowd these slopes in winter months. The restaurant offers warmth, food and hot coffee, but those can wait. The mountains beckon with paved trails that circle round and round, ever upward.

 My hiking buddy chooses to sit it out, so I set out on my own with my trusty walking stick, joining a scattering of other hikers coming and going. As I climb, I am literally above the clouds that swirl around the lower peaks. Fleecy, feathery, wispy clouds, ever moving, ever changing. Below, shimmering in the sunlight, are variegated green valleys, dotted with seemingly toy houses, flanked by tiny sheds, surrounded by pastures, grazed by miniature cows and goats. Over it all, an electric blue sky that feels close enough to touch, air so bracing that breathing demands attention.

I can’t stop taking pictures, but photos will never capture the wonder. I am fully present, mindful, all of my senses engaged. The hills are alive with the music of nature.

A view of the Austrian Alps
The Austrian Alps
September 26, 2019

I’m jerked back to the present when Sparkle spots a cat and barking furiously, tries to give chase. And I realize that while my reverie took me on a delightful mental trip, I am not practicing mindfulness as I promised myself I would as I walked this morning.

So, I begin to pay attention to my present surroundings. I notice how even at 25-degrees I feel warm and cozy in my layers. I see that the winter bare trees are looking a big pregnant, thanks to recent unseasonably warm temperatures. I round a corner and a splash of color, four yellow daffodils poking up through the dead grass, grab my attention. Ahhh…spring is coming! I note the robin’s egg blue of the cloudless sky, the twitter of bird talk, the sun working its way up behind the treetops. I observe the difference in the feel of the sidewalk under my feet and the feel of the grass beside it, the way the tightness in my back eases as I walk. I am grateful just to be alive on this lovely morning.

Doris Motte walking mindfully in the Austrian Alps
The view from the top.

I congratulate myself on taking a mindful walk after all. As I get ready for the rest of my day, I am cheerful, even buoyant, grateful for the small pleasures of a normal day. That’s what mindfulness does for me, it can do the same for you.

Mindfulness is simply about noticing, paying attention to what you are experiencing and tuning in with all your senses. It is being fully present to experience whatever is happening in the present moment, attuned to the music of life in all its variations. It’s a great way to start your day.

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