I left my apartment this morning without putting in my earbuds. Usually, I’m listening to a podcast or an audio book, or I’m talking with someone else. This morning, I was on my own, walking to the train, and I simply got distracted as I left the apartment and didn’t pick up my earbuds.
What a difference it makes. For the first time in a while, I engaged with my environment as I walked through the city. I felt the warmth of the sun on my skin, how it cooled off as I walked in the shade of the trees. I could hear the songbirds in the trees and see the grass that grew on the construction site. I mourned the tree that had been cut down to make way for a parking lot, and noticed the flowers on the fence of the dog park. I chatted with a woman who stopped with me at the street crossing, and petted her dog. I greeted the old man sweeping the sidewalk in front of his shop and nodded in greeting to many other folks.
In general, I engaged.
There is so much to notice in a city when we actually engage with the world around us. The birds in the trees or on rooftops, the plants that crawl over walls and fences, or push their way through the cracks in the sidewalk. Even in the most concrete of cities, plants and animals do their best to push their way in – and they usually succeed. We humans are animals too – and we are all over the cities!
It is so easy to walk through our lives in our own bubbles. So easy to just focus on the various screens that we use. Our computers and TVs at home, our tablets and phones as we are on the move. We can be distracted from our thoughts and from the world around us with those big and little screens. It’s all so easy.
It can be hard sometimes to allow ourselves to engage with our environment – especially if we are not happy with our lives in some way. It’s easier to lose ourselves in a game of Pokémon Go than to pay attention to the other people, animals, and plants on the street. It’s easier to focus on the latest Netflix series, or YouTube channel than it is to be alone with our thoughts.
There are times when engaging in everything around us may not be particularly uplifting – depending on where you live and what your circumstances are. Still, I encourage you to take some time to look up from your screens, take off your earbuds or headphones and engage in something. Maybe it’s a particularly cool flower, or a nice sunset or sunrise, or maybe it’s just smiling to the bus driver, or feeling the hum of the train that you are on.
For me, Paganism is about connecting to something greater than our mortal lives. You don’t have to believe in deity to connect. We can connect to all sorts of things. Let’s take a moment and connect to whatever is around us that might lift our hearts, if only for a moment – to the feel of the sun, or the temperature of the breeze, to the sounds of people moving around, or even to the quiet stillness at dawn or twilight.
Remember that there is something bigger than you, or your family, or whatever situation you are in. Remember that you are part of that greater thing, and you are important just because of that.