By Mary Boutieller
The key to finding joy and contentment is to be mindful without obsessing over the what-if’s.
“Watch out for snakes!” said the woman as she passed by us on a beautiful, blue sky morning. She didn’t provide any other information, like how close or far away those snakes were from us. Just a random warning from a random stranger on a hiking trail that we have traveled a dozen times or more.
As avid hikers, John and I are well aware of potential dangers. We know that bears are more active during certain times of the year; ticks too. We know that water crossings can be slippery and that the weather can change on a dime. We carry a first aid kit, bring plenty of water, and have backups, just in case. Then we tuck away all that information somewhere in the recesses our brains so that we have it if needed. What we don’t do is constantly think about the “what-if’s” because, if we did, we wouldn’t enjoy being out in nature.
After the woman walked by, I noticed that I became more vigilant about the possibility of a snake encounter. I made more noise, used my walking stick to sweep the grass in front of me, and totally missed the beautiful purple spiderwort flowers in bloom.
In other words, I found myself worrying about something that might never happen instead of being in the present moment.
Yet the woods have a way of calming the mind and opening it at the same time. As I started to relax again, I thought about how the national news warns us about things which often don’t come to fruition. I thought about how movies portray people along stereotypical lines, making us suspicious of others; how we allow political jargon to define and divide us; and how the continuous warnings of a lifetime to be careful, watch out for strangers, and trust no one but family (one of my mom’s favorites) can affect us. It’s no wonder we are always on alert. Our worlds are full of possibilities, yet often we only hear the warnings.
What I realized on that beautiful, blue sky morning, is that I’ve been hiking long enough to know what to be mindful of without obsessing over the what-if’s. And I’ve lived long enough to know that there will be unexpected perils over which I have little control. We can’t prepare for everything. We can, however, educate ourselves—through knowledge, experience and with others, tuck that information where it can be accessed if needed, then do our best to see what is right in front of us. It’s not that we disregard important information; instead we keep things in perspective so that it doesn’t consume us.
Think about it this way: If we are constantly looking at the clouds and wondering if it will rain, we will surely miss the colors of the rainbow just beyond our view. Finding the balance between too much and too little might just be the key to finding joy and contentment in this one phenomenal life we have to live.
So take a moment and think about all the amazing people in your life. Seek out activities that make you smile and take time to breathe. Watch shows, read and do things that inspire you to be a better version of your already stunning self. And the next time you find yourself worried about something that hasn’t happened yet, find some perspective. Go for a walk, pick up the phone, smile; then feel your whole soul lighten up. And ask yourself this: “How many ‘snakes’ are you looking for unnecessarily?”
Mary Boutieller is a Registered Yoga Teacher through Yoga Alliance. She has been teaching yoga since 2005. Her work experience includes 22 years as a firefighter/paramedic and 10 years as a Licensed Massage Therapist. Mary’s knowledge and experience give her a well-rounded understanding of anatomy, alignment, health and movement in the body. She is passionate about the benefits of yoga and the ability to heal at all levels through awareness, compassion, and a willingness to explore. She can be reached at: SimplyogaOm@gmail.com.