A New York State of Mindfulness
We all need a park. Each of us requires our own particular park bench, that profoundly personal place where we run off to, that temporary asylum away from it all, that emotional hideaway uniquely our own, that haven assuring some calm and comfort when we need it most.
Everyone’s park bench is a different place. Some places are real. Others are a state of mind. For our parks need not be shaded by giant elm trees, nor blanketed by green grasses, nor lined by wooden benches tempting us with free therapy.
A quiet room. The inside of a car. A morning shower. A private office. A man cave. A visit to a friend. A barstool. A favorite song. A walk or a run. A daydream. These things have become alternatives to sitting in parks in most of our daily lives. These are the far more practical and convenient, and for most of us the irresistible destinations we come to covet, granting us those rare moments to recharge physical batteries and nourish emotional sustenance.
Park benches and all their modern surrogates should be conduits for pursuing, if not achieving, mindfulness.
Let’s discuss this more deeply. Mindfulness is defined as “the intentional, accepting, and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts, and sensations occurring in the present moment.” Without some degree of mindfulness first, happiness is an utter impossibility.
Commonly associated with the practice of meditation, mindfulness seems to demand solitude. Yet, of all the places on earth, New York City is most certainly not commonly thought of as a retreat for getting away from the weight of things bringing us down. Rather, this City is an assault on the senses, a perpetually clashing yet constantly swirling melting pot of places to go and people to see, of boundless energy and unencumbered enthusiasm and expressionism, and of mass interdependence on one another to not only thrive but also to survive.
And for all this and despite these worldly temptations and seemingly other-worldly distractions sometimes, in the infinite wisdom of this City’s urban planners, those great forefathers of years earlier who shaped and sculpted the streets, and erected the bridges, and dug the tunnels, and determined where bricks were laid and were tall towers of glass and steel would ultimately distance themselves from the grand sense of chaos down below — they quartered off blocks designed specifically for parks. They built playgrounds. For they knew those people who lived back then, and the far greater numbers who would choose to come and live here later and the many more who will come long after we’re gone, too — the importance of the park bench to everyone was complexly understood and for that very reason could not and would not be sacrificed merely for the sake of another building.
I think the quality of life is determined by how much time we have during our day to spend in our own parks. And I’m convinced the quality of any city is measured best by how many park benches there are, and how many of them are filled with people — some seeking the elusive treasure of mindfulness.
Any day with a walk in the park and few moments sitting on a park bench is a good day.