The season for your soul
Lily Song CONTRIBUTOR
Photo: Sakura Steve / HIGH PARK TORONTO.
“It’s finally Sunday and you’re telling me you want to go to… a park?! Ha! You go do that, and I’m going to stay right here with my Netflix. See you later, ’gator.” This is an accurate depiction of how I used to react, and how the majority of students would react, about hitting the park in our teens and 20s: in spring or otherwise.
It’s common knowledge that university students are usually confined indoors. The places we invest most of our time in — our houses, classrooms, libraries, vehicles — are just different types of closed spaces that we shift between. Even when our “couch potato” identity is exposed, we automatically defend ourselves with universal excuses: too much homework during the fall, too cold to go out during the winter, and too busy catching up during the spring. Anything to avoid unnecessary trips to the outside world.
But is it really not worth it? When we look back, a lot of things we avoid are the ones we have never actually tried. Could we be missing some of their benefits? Should we try them before blindly dismissing them as wastes of time, so we can accurately evaluate them once and for all?
That Sunday, my friend was able to convince me with a promise of coffee on the way. It was also when I realized that this was to be my first ever visit to Toronto’s High Park: such an iconic location that somehow took me 11 years to see with my own eyes. Other than my own laziness, one of the biggest factors that prevented me from going was that I thought it was too far away and would take too long to get there. But all we had to do was hop on the TTC westbound subway from Bay Station, just off of the northeastern tip of our campus, to High Park Station, which took about 15 minutes.
When we walked past the main gates and into the park, I immediately noticed the vast amount of people who were all there to do the same thing we were doing. We were all aimlessly walking, looking, and documenting everything with our phones to the point where it almost felt like being part of a community with one shared interest. I was part of the majority who was there to enjoy the moment in the same time and place as everyone else.
Some of the best activities one can do in the park include: spotting totem poles within the forest of leafless trees (actually pretty difficult since tree bark and totem poles look very alike), grabbing lunch at the Grenadier Cafe, and catching the birds out and about at the docks of the central pond. If you’re there between March and May, be sure to catch the cherry trees blossoming.
As for how my attitude concerning public parks changed, the best way for you to understand is getting to experience it yourself. It offered me something that I had never felt. All this time I’ve been trying to improve my body at the gym and my mind at the university, but I’ve neglected my soul. Let me clarify: being spiritual doesn’t necessarily involve religion. Your spirit is who you really are stripped of your body and your emotions. It is infinitely important to know how to take care of yourself spiritually alongside your body and mind, in order to retain or develop your identity. Spiritual activities bring us back to the basics. They remind us how insignificant our problems are and how thankful we should be for what we have. Our planet has always been beautiful, it’s just that we have let social and academic obligations trick us into ignoring it.
If last fall was all about trying to balance schoolwork with mental health, and this winter is all about physical health and trying to avoid the flu, let’s focus on our spiritual health this spring by discovering and keeping up with our spiritual activities. Whether it’s hiking, meditation, yoga, or even colouring, I guarantee that you will see the changes in your life when you become more content and confident with yourself and the environment you are in.