You catch a glimpse of beauty out of the corner of your eye: a newly bloomed flower, a beam of sunlight, animals playing.
You look up for what feels like the first time and see an entirely new perspective of the buildings that you’ve walked by for years. Decorative facades, balconies full of plants, varied colors and materials.
You read a book, listen to a podcast, or speak to a friend and find yourself discovering something new about yourself.
These moments of awareness frequently occur without intention: a fleeting sense of noticing. Maybe we smile slightly as we notice. Maybe we take out our phone to take a picture and ultimately miss the opportunity to experience the noticing. Or maybe, we barely notice as we rush forward through our lives.
"The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it." -Thich Nhat Hanh
The power of awareness connects us more deeply with our presence, with the experiences and interactions around us, and with our own desires and challenges. As we grow our awareness, we practice releasing expectations and judgements of what we observe. We build upon the growth of discovery and compassion.
Awareness simply means noticing with an open mind: bringing our attention into the present and observing. A friend recently gave me a wonderful metaphor of how to invite in this mindful awareness a particularly challenging personal situation: pretend you are an anthropologist.
Observe the people, conversations, and situations as if they were new to you. Document these observations as if you were taking notes on a new civilization (I wouldn’t recommend carrying a pen and paper as it may be hard to explain to your friends, family, or coworkers that you are embodying the spirit of an anthropologist, but you can make mental notes or even write these unbiased observations in your journal). Through this process, you shift your awareness from reactionary with potential judgement and defense to one of noticing. An anthropologist does not research to judge or change a culture, but rather to learn and grow.
You can invite this same mentality to your thoughts and feelings. Observe and notice your self-talk with an open anthropologist mindset. How can you invite in your compassion and gratitude? How can you be more patient and less judgmental with yourself?
We can train our minds to notice and pause through mindfulness practices. Practice bringing your awareness into the space to notice first and respond after – either by releasing or thanking ourselves or choosing our path forward.
March Mindfulness Challenge
Invite in a few moments to pause during your day and simply notice your surroundings. Bring your awareness to your senses. Try identifying five things you can see, hear, smell, or feel. You can experiment by choosing one sense per day or trying a combination. Can you notice these sensations without judgement or expectations?
I use this exercise when I’m walking and notice my mind racing. I continue to walk but tune my awareness into the sounds around me. Sometimes I can hear birds, people talking, cars on the freeway, a dog barking; and sometimes I notice silence.