Every year, if I’m able to, I go on one intense vacation. Something where I unplug completely, with limited or no access to the internet. I’ll typically delete any games and all social networking apps off my phone. I pack a notebook and a couple good books.

While there, I’ll intentionally push myself into uncomfortable or scary situations. The fear is almost always irrational. It’s amazing how much your mind can screw with your ability to enjoy new experiences. Sometimes these are mental challenges, sometimes physical. The idea is to discover what my limits are, as you can never know until you are pushed to the edge.

But that isn’t what this story is about.

Upon leaving for home from the retreat last year, I was in a beautiful & positive mood. A 10 on the happiness scale. I can remember the feeling so vividly, as that level of positivity has been foreign to me for years. I keep myself around 4 to 6, on a day to day basis. That’s my normal mood range. Instead, this was like walking barefoot through the grass in the summer time. It was unadulterated. It was clean. I felt like I deserved it.

That feeling lasted for two days.

I was walking to a meeting, at my typical spot, where I have had so many conversations before. I can probably guess how many footsteps it is from my office to this spot. It’s that much of a habit.

Which brings with it an interesting situation. I’ve walked this route on so many days, there are now lingering memories at every stop.

That’s the corner where I waited to cross and got that crushing text message. Here’s that blind alleyway where I’ve had flashes of rage because drivers don’t pause as they exit, flying across the sidewalk. There’s that shop where I know the owner and he always asks to sit down sometime and talk about business, but it’s been two years and I still haven’t “found the time”, so now I avoid his store out of guilt.

There is the plaza where the city hosts my favorite farmer’s market. One stand carries over 30 types of tomatoes and I can’t pass without buying one. There is where one of my good friends works. I wonder what he is up to. Here’s the corner where I Matrix style dodged a giant wall of water when one of the city buses slammed into a puddle. I remember feeling like a ninja afterward.

On this particular day, as I walked I found my mood souring. The familiarity of the walk kicked me into that bad frequency that I tune into. I could feel the joy of the last several days slipping away. Next, it started to rain and the anger kicked in because without an umbrella, it covers my glasses (which I have to wear) and it’s like viewing the world through a washing machine.

But then I paused.

I remembered a little mindfulness trick a friend had given me to deal with such moments. That when an everyday situation appears to being driving my mind off the cliff of negativity, I need to break the cycle and draw my attention to back to a more balanced place.

I said to myself, “What else can I notice about this?”

I noticed a slight breeze was rustling the flags of the building next to me. They danced in unison with each gust. I noticed how the rain felt on my skin. Cold, but peaceful and refreshing. I looked up, which is rare for city folk, and remembered that cities are full of beautiful architecture if you bother to pause and observe. My gaze wandered a 100 year old gothic building that is stunning in it’s attention to detail. I imagined the pride the laborers must have taken in their work.

My anger began to wash away. I smiled and let out a tear or two. I stood there for a few more moments and kept watching the wind blow the flags, the rain wash down, and everything in the world felt good.