This time of year, I often walk our dog at a state park a few minutes from our home.
I walk at my own pace.
She can run and sniff without my pulling her along on a leash.
Or her pulling me.
On our last several walks, I have been telling myself to pay attention.
To pay attention to the changing color of the leaves.
And, as the leaves fall, to pay attention to how the trees blend together on the hillside.
To pay attention to the reflection on the water.
And to the coolness of the fall breeze and the warmth of the fall sun.
To pay attention to my own breathing.
And to make sure I take breaths which fill and stretch my lungs.
Most of the time I am there alone.
I can take my time.
I can stop and look.
I can soak up the silence as well as the sun.
Paying attention in this way is practice for those other moments.
Those moments when I am not alone.
Those moments when my chest tightens.
Those moments when the noise drowns out the silence.
Because it is in these moments I most need to be able to pay attention.