I was walking my dog when I noticed the flowers.
They were white, hanging generously from a tree in someone’s yard, reaching over the fence and across the sidewalk. It would have been so easy to walk on by, but I noticed. And I stopped.
They had orange spots on the insides of their bell-shaped cups. Only on the bottom, though, and they indeed had a distinct top and bottom. Such a subtle noticing, but so beautiful, and so easy to miss. Suddenly, I was inspired.
How much else do we miss, every single day?
How much beauty do we pass by, too busy to notice? How much detail? How much joy? How many fascinating and wonderful people slide under our radar, just because we don’t notice them?
Staring into the spotted cups of those flowers, I wanted to reconnect with the world. I wanted to taste it all. I wanted to drown myself in the heady, sweet juice of life. So I did. And as I dove into the concept of noticing, I peeled it back in layers: External, Internal, and Interpersonal.
Connecting to your environment is the easiest place to start. Notice the things around you, the smells and sights and sounds. Colours. Temperatures. Textures. Things you can merely observe, which have nothing to do with you besides the fact that they exist in your presence.
On my desk in front of me, right at this moment, there is a skein of yarn (really should put that back with the craft stuff!) of a gorgeously rich yellow hue, some fingerless writing gloves (it’s too hot to wear them right now) that look as soft as they feel, and some crystals that sparkle with something quietly magical. At first glance, this doesn’t seem like much, but when I take a moment to truly absorb their presence, these objects are a joy to behold.
A fun exercise at this level is to notice things in your favourite colours. Mine are any blend or combination of blues and greens, and once I started noticing, I realized how many things in my home could make me smile just by their colour! A candle holder. A scrunchie. A plastic container from the dollar store. My mini fan. My phone case. A scarf. A little glass box. My favourite colours are everywhere and I hadn’t even realized it!
When you start noticing on an external level, there is so much to take in instead of simply wandering blindly from task to task.
The next layer is about connecting with yourself, starting with your thoughts and feelings. Notice them, but don’t judge them. Our thoughts are the building blocks of our perception; they shape how we see the world, and thus, how we move within it. Notice which thoughts are productive or joyful, and which are limiting or even damaging. Notice where you’d like to make changes and create new thought patterns.
Then move into noticing your feelings. Greet them. Honour them. Even the less-than-pleasant feelings serve a purpose and deserve to be acknowledged. Give them space to be seen. Notice where they’re coming from. And remember that you have every right to feel however you do, especially during these tumultuous times.
Next, ground yourself into your body as you notice physical sensations. Your feet on the floor, your hair against your neck, the water from your shower running down your skin. The tickle in your throat, and the itch on your elbow. Seek out new ‘touch’ experiences. Feel things with your fingertips, your toes, your lips. Notice it all: discomfort (like tight shoes or a tummy ache), pleasure (like a fuzzy blanket or an orgasm) and everything in between.
When you start noticing on an internal level, you begin to take back control of your experience, instead of just going through the motions.
Finally, we come to the third layer, which deals with our connections to the people around us. Notice what they look like, how they’re put together: their body shape, their skin tone, their eye colour, their posture. Notice their dress and style, their makeup and haircut and other chosen characteristics.
Our appearance—how we present ourselves—says “This is me.” What are the people around you saying about who they are?
Notice their actions. What are they doing, and how are they doing it? Are they focused? Distracted? Hurried or slow? Our actions are often driven by emotion, so notice the emotions present in these people and how their actions relate. With most people wearing protective masks in public these days, it may be harder to tell, but you can still discern from posture, speech, gestures and their eyes what they may be feeling.
Are they slouched and withdrawn, or open and animated? Are they speaking quickly, or is their speech deliberate and measured? Notice how it all comes together: the emotion, the speech, the movement.
Now, notice how you respond to them, your immediate gut reactions. What assumptions or judgments do you find yourself making? How do they make you feel? Attracted? Repelled? Indifferent? In awe? Jealous? Aroused? Angry? Intrigued?
Don’t feel guilty for your judgments or responses. We all do it. Just start by noticing them. Then notice how much they are based in reality, and how much they are based on opinion and preconceptions. And then, you can decide where to make shifts.
When you start noticing on an interpersonal level, you can begin to renovate and redesign your relationships with those around you.
The bottom line
By the time we reach the third layer, the practice of noticing invites us to dig deep, to go beneath these instinctive responses and find curiosity, interest and compassion. People are complex beings, and whatever you’re seeing on the outside, no matter how attentive you may be, is only the tip of the iceberg.
Everyone has a story. Everyone experiences pain and pleasure, has a favourite food or colour or scent, and has a heart full of emotions and a head full of thoughts.
But the thing is, not everyone notices all the jumbled bits and pieces of this glorious experience. Not everyone takes advantage of the vast array of offerings this world lays out before us. But you do. You understand. You notice. You see that we’re each a unique and marvelous tangle, fumbling our way together—intricately interwoven—through this beautiful, crazy, juicy thing called life.
And you see the orange spots in the white flowers.
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image 1 image by dae jeung kim from Pixabay 2 Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels 3 Pixabay 4 Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 5 Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay