The Sound of Joy

Since the start of the first Lockdown in March 2020 I have walked from my house to Hampstead Heath which takes about 20 minutes on a good day, being an older person now and with a dodgy knee, I made this my daily exercise routine.

I usually walk across the Heath and up into Kenwood Woods and on to Kenwood House. I return down the other side and I estimate I walk 10 miles on this round trip and I’m pleased I am able to do that.

I have studied and taught Aikido for over 35 years and habitually trained my body and mind so having a way to do exercise daily and maintain my fitness has been very important to and for me.

Another very important aspect to exercise is mental fitness, the benefit you get to your state of mind, which means how you feel. Yes you have ways to manage how you feel. By doing exercise you create “feel good” brain chemicals. Any physical exercise will have this effect.

“It will improve our mood. When we exercise, endorphins are released which trigger a happy feeling in our minds. Exercise makes us more alert and attentive and helps us relax and sleep better too.”

I noticed when on my walks how I would gradually leave behind the tensions in my life and begin to just be in the moment allowing my thinking to clear and the difficulties I was having with the projects I am working on began to transform into challenges of how I was looking to solve them and be able to make choices so I can move forward.

Reframing or re-labelling something can transform its meaning and the effect it has. So changing the word “difficulties” to “challenges” opens up possibilities.

I realised I could use this time, these walks to document Hampstead Heath through this Covid year by taking photographs each day.

I would take a lot of photos and was overjoyed when I thought I had got a good one. I loved that feeling. I started thinking about my own creativity strategy. What exactly did I do when I was walking or sitting on a bench.

Sometimes, weather permitting, I would read a book and managed to get through 3 very large books before it got too cold to sit around for long.

Both walking and sitting and reading were excellent ways into the creative process. I realised that if I try to find a picture or work hard at seeing something, it didn’t work.

What did work was letting go of the conscious searching for an idea. I set an intention to get a photo, let go of that and handed it over to my unconscious, meaning I stopped thinking about it, consciously.

Eventually something would get my attention, just a flash of something, seemingly unrelated but then an idea, a photo would emerge. Often for me it’s the quality of the light. Might be that magical time in the afternoon, known as the golden hour, sunlight split into beams in the woods and reflections.

I do have an intention to take some photos but I’m not consciously searching for the picture, I’ve sort of let go of it, get out my own way and let something emerge or sometimes something pops up.

When you do this you open up all your senses and what’s wonderful about being on the Heath or Kenwood Park is the sound of children enjoying themselves. Their squeals, laughs and shouts are a constant background track and despite the weather they are out there enjoying themselves, playing and creating.

A lot of the little ones have plastic or weatherproof suits with wellies and there is nothing they enjoy more than to run and jump in the puddles and wade through the sticky mud until one foot gets stuck. They love it.

They are also spending quality time with their parents, something that is not likely to happen when the world of work steals them away.

The other beneficiary of this lockdown are the dogs, let off their restricting leases, burning off their energy and meeting up with their mates and always monitored by humans clutching little plastic poo bags. The dogs love the puddles and run through them at full speed and sometimes stop and drink some of the murky water.

The soundtrack is the constant sound of birds communicating and singing their songs and marking their territory. The dominant sound comes from the bossy Crows but the squads of Parrots can be good competition.

All of this is for me the Sound of Joy.

So now I have a collection of photographs to make at least one book and maybe a second.

The idea of excellent performance and creativity being state dependant is something I talk about in my book Mutual Mindfulness:

In this book I talk about a lot of successful people in business and sports and how they all have ways to access these powerful feelings. You will learn that you do not have to be at the mercy of negative emotions but rather have access to a box of mental tools to enhance your abilities even more.

Isn’t it great? Go for a walk and feel better!