Today I made a plan to use my time in between the start of breakfast (7:30am) and the start of my first session (10:00am) to go explore the nearby Stanley Park. It’s about a 20-minute walk along the waterfront from the Vancouver Convention Centre to the park, and it was forecast to be a bright, sunny day today! So I donned my hiking boots with my business-casual-wear and headed off to grab a quick breakfast before exploring.
The short walk from my hotel to the Convention Centre showed me, though, that the after-effects of yesterday’s surprise snowstorm were still in play–while the city sidewalks were salted and clear, the water’s-edge walk was covered with a thin sheet of ice. I realized that it would be not only a slow, treacherous walk to the park, but that the park walkways and trails were likely even worse to navigate. Ok, fine, I thought, I’ll stay at the Conference Centre, get that morning blog post out while I eat breakfast, and wait for the sun to come up a little further. So I waited, and at about 8:40, I decided it was now or never–I would have just enough time to get to the park and explore a bit, and still make it back for my 10:00 session.
I set out, power-walking to the west. I made it to the park in that 20 minutes, but promptly had to slow down. As I suspected, the park trails were still solid ice. I tromped along on the grass wherever I could, and grew increasingly more stressed–I was nervous about falling, about being late to get back, and about trying to navigate wooded trails on my own. I was angry and upset about the realization that I would not get to see very much of the park at all before having to turn back. I couldn’t find the trail I had planned to take, instead getting stuck walking along a main road. This wasn’t the experience I wanted! This was my only chance to see the park, and it was bombing.
I’ve never had formal training in mindfulness, but I thought I had sort of gathered the gist of things–as I realized I was close to tears, I started taking deep breaths. I started telling myself, it’s ok that it’s not what you planned. That is disappointing, and that’s ok. Around this time, I did find a trail that took me off the main road, so I ducked down it. I studied the scenery as I walked, and noticed how gorgeous this temperate rainforest is. Lo and behold, I came to the lake I had been trying to find, and while I knew I didn’t have time to continue to the north trail, I found the southern one to start looping back towards home. I took some pictures. Once I got back to the main (icy) walkways, I came across an older man gingerly picking his way as the walk sloped downhill.
“It’s an adventure out here, isn’t it?” I called out.
“Yes, and you don’t want to fall on your arse!” he crowed back. His name is Wayne, he is 65 years old, and he sports a precisely waxed handlebar mustache. He was born and raised in Vancouver, but only recently moved back. I asked him to point me on the best route back to downtown, and he offered to show me, as he was headed there himself. His pace was much slower than what I needed to be going (or so I thought), and my anxiety went ratcheting back up. But as we meandered along the path, Wayne told me stories about riding an Amtrak train to the east coast and then along the eastern seaboard for six months, and how he used to be a hippie and once hitchhiked through California to Mexico. We talked about American politics, and how Canada had to keep an eye on things, “like the bear and the mouse, eh?” He took me past the lost lagoon, and we came face-to-face with a heron, who I didn’t even see until he hopped nervously to put a few feet of distance between us. I decided it was ok if I was late to my session. Wayne made me slow down, made me connect with someone, and was thoroughly enjoyable to talk to!
When we did finally part ways, I hurried back up, and checked the time on my phone–I still had 20 minutes to get back to the Convention Centre. I made it into my session with three minutes to spare, and then in the session learned about professional development trends towards the mind, body, and soul. The instructors shared with us the acronym SNAPP–Stop, Notice (what you’re feeling), Allow (the feelings to be there), Penetrate (with deep breathing), and Prompt (compassionate action). I had unknowingly followed those steps, which allowed me to enjoy my time at Stanley Park. And in the very next activity, I was asked by a fellow participant, “What lesson is life teaching you right now?”
What lesson is life teaching you right now?