When I studied painting and drawing in college we learned to look very closely at every detail in the objects and scenes we sought to represent. We attended to the full range of colors as well as the light, shadows, and changing reflections. We carefully studied the folds in fabric and the play of light as it shimmered on glass vases. As my classes progressed, I noticed more and more in my daily life. The nearby lake had an impressive array of reflections that transformed throughout the day. The soapy water became beautiful as I washed the dishes. In many ways, I had come to my senses by paying closer attention.
Our senses are the primary way that we connect and engage with our environment. When navigating daily life, our attention allows us to focus our senses and cognitive-perceptual processing on what is necessary to accomplish our goals and stay safe. To be sure, if we lacked this filtering capacity, we would be completely over-stimulated and unable to function. However, this might also set us up for a habitual way of experiencing the world that excludes a wide range of nuances. Add the challenge of spending endless time in your head and much of your environment might be missed completely. What would happen if you shifted your attention to things you never noticed before? How might your day-to-day experience be different?
Daily life can be both busy and mundane. In either case, there is a world of opportunities to observe our environment differently by paying attention to things that we had previously filtered out of our experience or never noticed. Try spending a day using your senses to observe things you might have never noticed. Take note of how this experience impacts your sense of presence, connection, calm and overall experience of pleasure or enjoyment.
Here are a few examples to help you get started:
Try noticing with your eyes. Look at the many different shades of green on the leaves of the trees. Notice reflections and shadows. Notice textures. Look at the way water moves in the sink or on your windshield. Notice the patterns created on the sides of buildings or freshly mowed lawns.
Try noticing with your ears. Listen for sounds such as your footsteps, creaks in the floor, the click of the light switch, the rush of flowing water at your faucet or the patter of the rain. Notice the birds or the sound of the breeze.
Try noticing with your nose. What does the room smell like at this moment? What smells do you experience outside or when you drive around town? What about your soap, foods, candles, and beverages?
Trying noticing with your mouth. Taste all of the flavors in your food. Try eating new things. Notice the textures and feeling of eating each bite.
Actively bring your awareness and attention to details you would not typically notice and slow down long enough to take in the endless nuances of your environment. Start a collection as you notice and experience new things throughout your day and make a list of your favorites. As you come to your senses you are likely to feel increasingly present and grounded. You may also notice a stronger sense of connection and pleasure as you take time to experience all that is around you. When you come to your senses and wake up your attention to the things that go unnoticed it is possible to find an entirely new world right before your eyes.
Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Visit us at www.lindquistpsych.com