Who knew that a bridge could create a powerful mindfulness practice?
Certainly not me.
As a born and bred Vancouverite, the Lions Gate bridge is one of my great loves.
It takes me from my home in North Vancouver, through Stanley Park, and into our beautiful downtown core.
For some it represents nothing but a big headache.
Traffic. Commuting. Stalls and backups.
But not for me.
This beautiful bridge has always made me happy.
It offers one of the most picturesque views of Vancouver.
To the east, the city situated on our gorgeous inner harbour.
To the west, the wide open sea.
With all its boats and beaches. And islands off in the distance.
To the north, the majestic North Shore mountains. Snow capped in the winter.
And then, of course, there’s the smell.
Oh. That. Smell. Of heavenly ocean!
Whenever I cross the bridge, I open my car windows and breathe in all that salty sea air.
It’s food for my soul.
Most of all the bridge brings back fond memories.
Of a mindfulness ritual I had many years ago.
When I was a newly single mom of a young toddler.
Commuting by bus to a busy job every day.
When life was hectic.
And seemingly out of my control.
When I often felt over-extended. And overwhelmed.
And hanging on by a thread.
So every morning, as soon as the bus approached the bridge, I would put down the book I was reading.
Close my eyes.
Take a deep breath.
And relax into my body.
Then with my eyes closed, I would focus on each of my other four senses.
First I would pay attention to everything I could hear.
People chatting. Someone’s music through their headphones.
The roar of the bus’s engine below. The sound of cars rushing by.
The pitter-patter of rain against the windows.
My own breathing. My own heartbeat.
I would concentrate on picking up the subtlest of sounds all around me.
Then, when I was done, I would move on to my sense of touch.
The feel of my back pressed against the hard steel seat.
The stranger sitting next to me — their foot lightly touching mine.
The rise and fall of the bus as it sped along the road.
The texture of my book in my hands.
The warmth of the sun streaming through the windows.
Next I would take in everything I could smell.
Someone’s aftershave. Or perfume.
A breakfast muffin.
The faint scent of my own hand cream.
Lingering cigarette smoke on someone’s clothes.
The fresh scent of the towering fir and cedar trees. Guarding the road before we entered the city.
Lastly I would focus on my sense of taste.
A bit of toothpaste still in my mouth. A hint of coffee.
A mint I’d just eaten.
The slight taste of gloss on my lips.
I would do this short 2-3 minute mindfulness exercise every morning.
As I crossed that beautiful bridge.
And rode through Stanley Park.
That daily mindfulness practice helped to center me.
In my body, mind and soul.
And kept me grounded before I began my busy work day.
Fast forward to now.
Almost 15 years later.
When I look at the bridge I’m reminded of how important that mindfulness practice was.
How it helped to change me. And to save me.
I see how far I’ve come since then.
Thankfully, life isn’t nearly as hectic anymore.
I work from home. My son is almost grown.
And I have more time and freedom (and wisdom) to take the time I need for myself.
To be kind to myself. And gentle on my soul.
But whenever I start to feel off balance, this simple mindfulness exercise still works for me.
Perhaps it will for you as well.
So the next time you’re feeling tired, anxious, overwhelmed, or stuck in a loop of self-doubt or criticism, why not try this instead.
Pause. Wherever you are.
And take a moment for yourself.
Close your eyes.
Relax into your body.
And just focus. On one sense at a time.
Let each one slowly guide you.
To whatever you hear, feel, smell and taste. In the moment.
And before you know it, you’ll have stepped away from your angst and worries.
And be fully IN your body.
Feeling more grounded and relaxed.
And ready to move forward in your life. With more self-compassion, calm and ease.
And a feeling that – yes indeed – everything WILL be OK in the end.
P.S. For more tips on moving forward with ease, check out my FREE guide.