Pausing in the woods

Last night my mind was restless, I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do on my day off today. I have an eating disorder and have problems with excessive exercise. I felt trapped by the desire to just get out and pound the streets, but with that the depression of the feelings which go with that compulsion – the futility of it and disgust at myself. I’ve got into a bit of a bad habit lately of speed walking a set walk in our local open space and can feel my mind switching off to what is going on around me. This is not helping my mood.

Today I woke up with a determination to pause and go slower, I felt ‘held’ by the fact I was still getting *some exercise, but needed to slow things down for the sake of my mood. I took my camera out with me which takes good close up photos.

The first thing which caught my eye was some moss on a log, the small seed heads sticking out, I got in close and enjoyed seeing the image of the close up on the camera screen. The closer I looked the more interest I found in the moss. Discovering all the different textures, colours and patterns of the moss became my focus for a while. I was seeing things I’ve never noticed before. My mind was present in the moment for once, there was no internal monologue or thought in the background. I felt calm.



I could smell the wild garlic which had started to break through in the woods. The smell of early spring. I sat for a while and really enjoyed the feeling of warm sun on my skin, it’s such a contrast to the cold weather we’ve had recently and I could feel it lifting my depression a little. I’d forgotten how lovely this part of the woods was, I’d been so focused on  meeting the goal I had set myself each day in terms of steps I was rushing past everything on previous walks and not appreciating what was under my nose.

Despite it being spring there is still a variety of fungus to be found in the woods, Turkey Tail, Yellow Brain fungus and Jelly Ear to name but a few. I spent a good 10 minutes studying the patterns on the Jelly Ear fungus which had gone a bit past its best. As the sun dappled through the trees you could see more of the veined markings in the fungus if you moved from different angles. It was so intriguing to look at.

I continued walking and noticed the quills of lords and ladies plants (Arum Lily) as they were pushing their way up through the earth. I always notice this every spring and love to see the sun shine through their bright green quills. I enjoyed trying to take photos looking down into the quill, as through a camera lens it looked like a never ending tunnel. Another favorite of mine is the Hearts Tongue Fern, the light shining through it’s waxy leaves made it look like stained glass.

I stop yet again for another pause on a log, listening to the bird song. I start to notice the textures on the log. At the moment when I do slow down the different textures of bark are really drawing my eyes in, the bright colours of lichen which often decorate them or simply the knots in the wood twisting round in face shapes giving the trees a human like appearance.

I remember going to a mindfulness workshop a year or so ago and the instructor explaining how practicing mindfulness can actually change your brain. I am starting to notice that when I consciously slow down and practice mindful photography it changes my experience of the environment around me, it’s like seeing it with a clearer pair of glasses, it becomes a way of helping me to cope with difficult emotions and makes a familiar place feel like a playground for the senses. As I start to recover from anorexia in the future I hope I can keep using this healthier coping mechanism to keep me more stable and balanced.



3 thoughts on “Pausing in the woods

  1. I enjoyed your description of how you slowed down your internal monologue by focusing on the nature around you. I’m reading a book called ‘The Art of Mindful Birdwatching’ at the moment


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