Meditation

3 Spots To Get Away From It All (without leaving Hamilton, ON)

You guys. I have a lot on my plate. And I know you do too. I’m really trying to be mindful about how hanging out on my phone doesn’t serve me when I’m feeling overwhelmed and burdened by my to-do list. I already know that there’s little else that works better for me when I’m feeling stressed out than getting out in nature, so what am I doing scrolling Instagram when I’m feeling that way anyways? When I first moved to Hamilton I had lots of free time on my hands and so I spent it getting to know the access points to nature in our fair city and I feel determined to get outside this summer as much as I used to.

Here are my top three spots for getting into nature without leaving the city:

Princess Point in Westdale by  Jim Smith

Princess Point in Westdale by Jim Smith

Princess Point

  • Where: Where Macklin St. N. meets Longwood Rd. N. in Westdale. 

  • Why: Princess Point is an easy to access part of Cootes’ Paradise Nature Reserve with trails that meander along marshlands and tracts of Oak Savannah, an ecology unique in Canada to this part of Ontario. If you’ve got a canoe (maybe you do!), it’s a great place to go for a paddle. Princess Point is considered a “Nationally Important Bird Area” (that’s an official title!) and if you make it to Sassafras Point by taking the Wild Ginger Trail, you can nibble on the end of a sassafras leaf, one of the original ingredients for root beer. 

  • When: If you’re into birds, go first thing in the morning. 

  • Getting there: Walk from Westdale north on either Macklin or Longwood to the end of the street. Take the 06 Aberdeen bus to the Princess Point Loop if you’re taking HSR. Ample parking available. 

  • Cost: Parking is $1-2/hr, otherwise it’s free free free. 

Christie Lake Conservation Area

Christie Lake Conservation Area

Christie Lake Conservation Authority 

  • Where: On Hwy 5 just west of Hwy 6 in Dundas

  • Why: Part of the Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA), this is where Spencer Creek widens in the Christie Reservoir and the swimming is excellent! The water is much warmer than Lake Ontario but because it’s a creek there’s a flow to the water that keeps things feeling nice and fresh. Add to that inexpensive canoe/kayak rentals, mountain biking, hiking, and a nice long beach - why aren’t you there right now?  

  • When: Weekend daytime can be nuts, but evenings and weekdays tend to fairly empty. It’s just a 12 minute drive from James St. N., which makes it a lovely spot for a mid-week early evening summer hang. 

  • Getting there: Most will want to drive. The adventuresome might choose to bike. 

  • Cost: Free if you have a HCA membership ($115/12 months), $10/car + $5/person. 

Smokey Hollow Waterfall in Waterdown by  Joe deSousa

Smokey Hollow Waterfall in Waterdown by Joe deSousa

Smokey Hollow Waterfall 

  • Where: Off Mill St. S. in Waterdown

  • Why: There are bigger waterfalls in Hamilton but this has got to be one of the most beautiful. Grindstone Creek flows into a fast flowing fall that tumbles into the most lovely meandering stream alongside a gorgeous section of the Bruce Trail. Walk along the path to the left of the waterfall down the escarpment past big jutting rocks until you reach the valley floor. The forest opens up and the trail is flat for much of the next few kilometres.  

  • When: The parking lot is small so you may want to go on a weekday or weekend morning/evening.

  • Getting there: Besides driving, the Aldershot GO bus #18 passes right by or ride your bike along York Blvd and Snake Rd. 

  • Cost: Free!

Hope and Concern in a Time of Love: A letter from Mindful Heart Hamilton

Contributing to the community art offering at the recent anti-Islamophobia march at City Hall

Contributing to the community art offering at the recent anti-Islamophobia march at City Hall

Dear Friends,

We live in a time of love. We can’t help it.

Often, we can’t see it through all the concern, fear and hate surrounding us, and in our greater world.

We must remember: Every ounce of fear is matched with love of something it is trying to protect. When we see something we love slipping from us, when we don’t fully understand our deservedness of such things, when society has told us over and over again that we don’t deserve anything, and it can and will take from us what we need to survive – fear arises.

This is perfectly natural, and does not have to be a battle. When a child approaches us in fear, do we push them away? Do we tell them they should not be afraid and they are wrong for feeling that way? Or do we comfort them, listen to their concerns, and respond with a loving perspective?

These are the questions we can ask ourselves when fear arises; our answers are how we will treat the scared child in us.

Breathing in, I see myself as a frightened child, only five years old. Breathing out, I listen carefully with a loving heart to what my child-self fears.

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When we don’t do this, our inner child stays fearful. They remain misunderstood. Their fear is joined with pain of loneliness, and rejection that builds with every passing moment we do not give them the care they need. This is happening inside of us, sometimes where we can’t see it. That is when our actions become split – our choices are partially in our adult control, where we may understand them, and partially in the reactions of our pained inner child, where we may not.

It causes a lot of unnecessary confusion to ignore the pain and fear within us.

Breathing in, I embrace my fear and pain as a parent embraces a child. Breathing out, I accept myself and all my negative emotions. I am worthy of the love I give myself.

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When we see this fear in others, it is easy to focus on how their fear, and their actions, affect us. Us vs. Them. This is our perception, and they may have a similar perception of us. We can find compassion in this shared behaviour, if we try.

This is not to say that we must ignore harmful actions, thoughts, and beliefs. They all have effects and consequences, which we can observe within ourselves, whether we are creating them or receiving them. If there is hurt, it must be cared for. Hurt in one is hurt in everyone.

It is only when we receive the care we need that we have freedom to extend that love and care beyond ourselves, because we have enough to share. When we feel we don’t have enough, we are frightened, and we push against anything that seems to take more from us. If we can recognize that this is happening in others, and feel compassion from our own difficult experiences with this, then our actions, thoughts, and beliefs are very different. Different enough that they may break this cycle of hurt.

Breathing in, I inhale the pain of those around me, seeing myself in them. Breathing out, I release all of our pain, creating space for love to come in.

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When we practice mindfulness, we are discovering the present moment in our bodies, minds, and environments. When we feel fear, is there a present threat we need to address? If so, we can address it more appropriately by recognizing it. What are we loving so much that we are afraid to lose it? Or: are we sitting in a peaceful room, with other peaceful beings, safe and warm and brought here by shared good intentions? We may find we have a lot to be thankful for in this moment.

With mindful practice we seek to realize the moment as it is, and not be caught up in yesterday and tomorrow. We use the body to do this, because the body cannot be in two places at once. We use the breath to feel the body, because the breath is ever-changing, just like the present moment – and this concept of change is particularly challenging for a mind that seeks stability, and fear that seeks control.

Breathing in, I recognize that trying to control things restricts me from new experiences and growth. I often try to control what I am afraid of. Breathing out, I remember that I am strong enough to feel new things, and to learn, and I release control that will no longer serve me.

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We also practice mindfulness to rest. There is much, much work to be done to create a more loving and understanding world, and that is work we must do in addition to simply surviving. For some this work of survival is matching the limits of what we have to give, and uncertainty is the only certainty we know. Taking time to rest, to feel support, to be quiet, and to just breathe is a great gift to offer ourselves.

At Mindful Heart Hamilton we welcome and accept all beings, regardless of the beautiful differences they inhabit: race, gender, religion, age, status, ability, lifestyle. We hold in high priority the removal of barriers to the supportive practices of breathing peacefully, listening deeply, speaking lovingly, and resting in safety in the company of others.

Our weekly practice is drop-in, and by donation, with no expectation to give anything but your presence.

We open our arms to those who are suffering. We open our hearts, and listen with them. We share ourselves as freely as we are able, and we ask for help when we feel we are not strong enough.

Dear Friends, let us gather today and every Sunday from 3-5pm at Inland Island Community Wellness Centre to be together. That is all.

With love and support for Hamiltonians old and new, loving and suffering,

MHH