Today I went out for a walk in the beautiful January snow.
We haven’t had much snow yet this season; the winters here in Wisconsin seem to be changing and I was so grateful to get some fresh winter snow. The second day of the new year, 2019, and I been feeling melancholy, eager to find some solace in nature. I left my phone in my car, not wanting the distraction of checking texts and taking pictures.
As I rambled through the forest with a wonderful border collie named Max, I noticed the crunching of snow underneath my boots, and the crusty, heavy white weighing on all the branches. I heard absolutely nothing—silence—in all of its glory. And for the first time in days, I took a deep, luxurious breath. As Max and I walked further into the tress there was a beautiful canopy of trees, heavy with the snow, leisurely falling over the path. For a second it felt like another world, a magical realm of winter fairies and whimsical beings. It was so picturesque I grabbed for my phone to take a picture, and then remembered I did not bring it.
And in this serene moment a wave of anxiety washed over me.
How was it that I could not capture this beautiful moment in the trees? How would anyone know what a magical experience this was? How would I remember this without a picture? But even more pressing was the question: How would this scene compare to the other images I’ve seen on social media? I began to flip through images in my mind, professional photographs I have seen on social media, of such whimsical views.
As a mindfulness student and teacher, I was amazed by the level of anxiety that rushed through my veins. This very moment could demonstrate to others who very artsy, or outdoorsy or reflective I am on social media. How would the world possibly know this about me if I didn’t capture this moment? Would I fade into oblivion on social media? What was I losing out on?
In this very moment, a mantra came forward into my heart, saying, “You see more, but experience less.”
I can’t begin to count the number of snow-laden pictures I’ve seen online. But how many of those have I actually experienced? Here I was in a REAL-LIFE MOMENT, my heart beating in this forest, my fingertips cold and my nose running. I was in the forest, and I nearly missed it by wishing I had brought my phone.
Taking pictures is just evidence that you were somewhere. IT DOES NOT MEAN YOU EXPERIENCE IT.
Too often, I find myself not in the moment when I grab for my phone, it’s not just taking the photos that prevents me from living in the moment. It’s the vortex of reviewing photos to select the best one, add a filter, post online and then wait for the comments and likes to come in. am not practicing the mindfulness skills I so often preach to my clients and others. After all, mindfulness is being engaged in the present moment while not being seduced by the future.
Even writing this now, I feel regret for not taking a photograph along to post along with this post. The struggle is real. I recently heard that when we practice mindfulness, we actually experience 50% more detail in our day to day lives. Can you imagine living a life that was productive as hell but lacking detail? Imagine you are on your deathbed, reviewing your life. You have accomplished your many to-do lists but can’t remember the patterns of bark on the trees, the soft sweat beneath layers of clothes on a winter hike, the experience of silence in the forest, healing magic of stillness on a sunny, January day.