I went on a one-day outing a couple of weeks ago and came home remarkably refreshed, which made me ponder why this day recharged me in a way that my regular yoga practice and Reiki treatments rarely do. This post originally appeared on my personal blog on July 26, 2015: (https://andrewjobeswrites.wordpress.com/)

I set out with my best friend and partner yesterday to spend some quiet time together in nature without our child. We had looked forward for a couple of weeks to doing some canoeing, swimming, journalling, meditating, and re-connecting with one another.

When yesterday arrived, the weather forecast involved thunderstorms, but we decided to go anyway and be open to altering the course of the day if we needed to. I think it was this decision that set the tone for the day.

We paddled for perhaps twenty minutes and arrived at a rock where we landed and ate lunch. And then we lay down and watched clouds as we cuddled. Other than pointing out a few things that we saw in the clouds, we were silent. I relaxed into my senses. I felt the ground beneath me and the breeze upon me. I listened to a singing vireo and the lake water lapping against the shoreline. I smelled Sarah’s hair and the forest floor. All sense of time disappeared.

The sky was dark and there was thunder, and we struggled with whether we should paddle back to the canoe launch or go farther afield. We decided to forge ahead. Anxiety crept in as we paddled to the opposite shore. Our sense of time had returned as we raced against the weather, driven by a fear of what might happen in the future.

The rain started as we landed. We found a dense pine to put our stuff under, then sat at the edge of a small, pond-like inlet and listened to the glass-tinkle of the raindrops hitting the water. I smelled the damp, organic air. I observed the colours of the granite. We walked, and I felt the textures of twigs and rock and moss on my bare feet. Again, all sense of time disappeared.

More thunder. Dark sky. Time returned to the fore as we once again paddled, this time for the canoe launch. There was no lightning, but the anxiety was back. The skies opened up and we got soaked as we paddled.

All’s well that ends well, “they” say. We landed, dried off, and went to a local resort for dinner and were gifted the sensory splendour of a tremendous thunderstorm over the lake while we ate.

We didn’t do many of the things yesterday that we had intended to do. We didn’t journal. We didn’t swim. We didn’t meditate. And yet, although our outing only lasted a total of about eight hours, we were both completely recharged by our adventure. We felt calm, centred, and peacefully contented.

As I reflected this morning on our outing, I found myself wondering why it brought a depth of relaxation and recharge that others of the mindfulness activities I participate in don’t. I practice yoga several times a week. I offer Reiki treatments regularly. In both cases, I am fully present, and in both cases I come out feeling recharged. And yet, neither yoga nor Reiki leave me feeling as fully recharged and connected to Self as yesterday’s outing did.

I am certain that spending time in the wilderness was a major contributor, but I am no longer a cubicle denizen, and I spend a lot of barefoot time outdoors in my daily life, gardening, playing with Linden, hanging out with friends. There was something else at play here.

And then I got it…

When I practice yoga, I am fully present in my yoga practice. I am focussed on my alignment, on the sensations in my body, on my breathing. When my mind wanders, I return to my breath to regain focus.

I am also fully present when I am offering a Reiki treatment. I am focussed on my breathing, on my clients’ words and body language, on the sensations in my body. When my mind wanders, I use a silent mantra to regain focus.

But yesterday was different in that I didn’t focus. I didn’t force my mind to be present in the moment through breathing or mantras. I was just present. And not only that, I was present in the full sensory experience in a way that was not directed by my head.

And there it is. Focus can and does lead to presence in an experience, but it’s still a head game. It’s not mindfulness; it’s mind-fullness. And I suspect that dropping that extra “L” makes all the difference. As soon as you think about being mindful, the mindfulness gets lost.

I’m heading out shortly for a morning yoga practice, and I can’t wait to play with not focussing so much on being present in the practice, but on simply allowing myself to be present in it.

And I have a feeling that this might change the game completely…