Posted on April 9, 2019
Roaming the Wilds of Akkala – Mindfulness in Unexpected Places
Following the road along the back end of Upland Zorana, you’ll find yourself at a fork in the road. Stay left to cross the Akkala span and ride along the western plains, or veer right towards the lake. Either road will take you further into this northeast region, defined by sloping grassy hills, forever-autumnal colored foliage, and a chance guardian or two.
Perhaps you’ve traveled this far to climb the treacherous ruins beneath the Akkala tower. Or you’re returning from your trip of felling trees to assist our friend Bolson in pleasant Tarrey town. No matter the quest, I always find there is something positive to be gained from traversing this area.
Mindfulness at face-value sounds like one of those self-help buzzwords we tend to find littering Instagram – something along the lines of “goat yoga”, “intentional eating”, or “wheat-grass shot”. I myself frequently conflated it with meditation, but the two don’t necessarily have to go hand in hand.
The way my therapist described it, mindfulness is the act of focusing your thoughts completely on the now. Our overwrought brains tend to focus heavily on the past and future (I am an obsessive future-thinker myself), which leaves us feeling exhausted, distracted, forgetful, and simply “not present”. By practicing mindfulness, we force ourselves to focus in only on what’s happening now. What do you see within the immediate vicinity? What aromas hang in the air? What does the texture of your shirt feel like? How many deep breaths have I taken these past few moments? This is all mindfulness.
Practicing mindfulness was the first homework assignment I was tasked with (as I have just recently started this whole therapy thing). Seems easy enough, right? I thought I might try to take one of my obsessive future-thoughts and turn it into a mindfulness moment. Instead of worrying about how much time I allotted myself at the end of the day to ensure my outfit was picked out for work, lunch packed, gym clothes set aside, etc., I would set my alarm a little bit earlier and take care of those things in the morning. I thought I might force myself to focus on the “now” feeling” of performing those tasks upon waking.
This has gone okay for a couple mornings. My other thought was to actually practice a “mindfulness minute” by sitting down, taking stock of my surroundings, and writing out what I was experiencing via my five basic senses. Instead of doing this, however, I found myself more often than not just “thinking” about doing it, and thus spiraling with another future-thought of something I hoped/planned to do.
I found myself struggling more than I expected with this whole practice of making myself focus on nothing but the now for a solid sixty seconds. How alarming to discover that your racing future-thoughts literally consume your entire being without you being aware. These thoughts plagued me as I rose this past Sunday morning, powered on my Nintendo Switch, and loaded up Breath of the Wild.
This is my third or fourth play-through of the game, as I just recently bought a switch and was eager to peruse the land of Hyrule all over again with improved graphics and without the stalls and lag my Wii U had begun to exhibit. I found myself lazily drifting throughout the game, completing a shrine here or there, collecting each tower location. I’ve nearly enough hearts to acquire the Master Sword, and haven’t yet touched a single divine beast.
Those moments I spend in Hyrule bring me those summer feelings from my childhood, when the days were long and hot, school was far away from my thoughts, and grass-stained knees were aplenty. Where the sun shines, the crickets are loud, and the worries of tomorrow are nowhere to be found.
And as I reached this level of peace again while freely roaming these imaginary lands, I found myself completely and utterly lost in the moment. Wholly at peace with the now. And for not just 60 seconds, but for many hundreds, I was able to practice mindfulness.
I have long loved video games, the Legend of Zelda franchise in particular. But despite our love for these games, we still fall prey to the stigma that consuming large quantities of these games is not good for us. Yes, it makes me happy to play these games, but is there a benefit when I could perhaps be outside, getting ahead on chores, working on my art? (And yes, these are silly thoughts, and I’m not saying you should feel bad for how many video games you play or how much of your time it consumes. The guilt just still claws at me anyways).
Finding those moments of mindfulness felt like vindication for all the moments I had chosen to relax with one of these games. Realizing that mindfulness was not only not possible, but also something I could practice for lengthy sessions brought me a lot of calm.
And though I haven’t fully mastered the concept, I do believe mindfulness is something we all could benefit from. So, take a deep breath. Touch the edges of your sleeve. Listen to the sounds on the air. There is so much happening around you in the now, and relishing in it can be so therapeutic.
And hey, maybe take a “trip” to Akkala to see the speckled birches among the Torin Wetlands, or the crags beneath the citadel. You never know where you’ll find that mindful moment.