Notice the photo above. What do you see? Yes, there are leaves on the ground, but look deeper. Notice the texture and colors of the leaves, the veins running through each of them, the way the light bounces off their surface, and how the points of the yellow leaf look like they’ve been dipped in a paint dish of crimson and pear green. Notice the shape of the stones on the ground and the patterns they make, how the moss is pushing up through the cracks, and how the shade of green in the moss is different from the shade of green in the leaves. Imagine what the temperature feels like outside where this image was taken, what the air smells like there, what sounds you might hear. Perhaps other leaves are blowing across the pavement, or in the trees. Susurration is the sound of leaves whispering and murmuring in the trees. It’s like hearing rushing water in a river. Did you notice the rustling, or were you too distracted by your smart phone pinging?
Most of us have been so conditioned by the multiple distractions throughout our day that we don’t even know how to focus our attention on anything. We take pride in our multitasking and juggling acts. We drive a car listening to an audio book while eating our breakfast on the way to work. We cook dinner with the television on while talking to our friend on speaker phone. We jog with headphones unaware of the traffic, pedestrians or birds singing on our path. We answer a text during an intimate moment with our lover.
Distractions keep us in a manic state of mind. It is impossible to be fully present when so many different things are trying to get our attention. Tuning out the noise can be challenging for people who have become accustomed to the constant clutter they intentionally bring into their space. Addictions are hard to break. And technology is indeed addictive.
If you wish to feel more calm and centered, even for just a moment each day, begin to practice deep noticing. You will be surprised by how peaceful you become. When you notice things deeply, you must give all of your attention to it. That requires you to unplug. Don’t check your phone, don’t turn on a radio or television, don’t read the newspaper; just pay attention to the one thing you are doing, such as eating your breakfast in silence. Notice the fresh raspberries in your yogurt, their color, their texture. Pop one into your mouth and allow the flavor to linger on your tongue, triggering a memory of childhood when you used to pick raspberries on the side of the road at your aunt’s house in the woods, and you can see an insect in your mind’s eye still clinging to the stem rooted in the earth.
Begin to see like a child sees, with wonder in everything because it is new, as if you are experiencing it for the first time. This awareness is powerful and requires all five senses. Go outside on your lunch hour and listen to the birds sing. Try to identify different species by sound. Caress the bark of a tree. Lean against it with your eyes closed and feel the sun on your face. Smell a wood burning fire, or freshly cut grass, or baked bread. Just focus on one thing with all your attention.
Noticing things on a deep level helps us to experience the power of now. Living in the moment forces us to stop worrying about tomorrow’s meeting or yesterday’s failed relationship. The past and future don’t exist, only now exists. Some people will find this uncomfortable at first. They might automatically want to check their phone, or turn on another device to distract them from their own thoughts. Don’t be afraid of being alone with your thoughts by purposely distracting yourself from this sacred moment. The messages will still be there, but this moment won’t last forever.
Deep noticing keeps us grounded to the earth and connected to every living thing on it. Cloud gazing and finding shapes within them, identifying patterns in the sidewalk or on a wall in a waiting room, these are activities to master. You are fully present when you notice your surroundings. The richness in the details of life brings more meaning to your existence. When you practice noticing deeply, you become a better partner, friend, and employee because you are fully present listening to those you are with, examining the expressions on their faces, and enjoying the cup of coffee you are sharing with them. Artists find it easy to notice deeply because they are trying to capture the essence of their subject, transforming a feeling into a sound, or painting a breathtaking sunset. That requires deep noticing.
Become an artist in your own life by bringing awareness and mindfulness to each moment. You’ll be surprised by how much you see, hear and feel when you notice what there is to be noticed. Put down the phone. Turn off the media. Welcome a childlike joy of discovery returning to your life.