For the past couple of weeks I have been experimenting with focusing on new strategies to be present in the moment. For this experiment I have been drawing on the information from Sara Harvey Yao’s article on mindfulness. Each week I am taking one strategy from Sara’s article to focus on for that week.
To review, in Week 1, I focused on what my intent was when doing tasks or chores. Was it to have a clean kitchen to walk into, or preparing a yummy meal for my loved ones? (To keep a clean cat litter box for my cats?) At the end of the first week I decided that intent seemed to help me feel connected to my life and to the people (and cats) around me. Let’s look at Week 2.
Week 2: Attention to details. How did it go?
First, I would like to say that I was a bit skeptical that paying attention to details would help me feel present in the moment. I have tried this before. Looking at my surroundings – trying to really see the leaves on the trees in the park, the clouds in the sky overhead, etc., especially when I’m out on a walk. – And, to be honest, I am usually a failure at this strategy. My mind flits away to my to-do list, or it starts to mentally problem-solve something that came up earlier in the day, etc. So I did not have much optimism for this strategy.
What did I discover? Well, there are certain kinds of details that do engage me in the moment. But, it is not so much what I can see – like the leaves on the trees – but instead what I can feel. For instance:
- The sleek softness of my cat’s fur and the pebbly-ness of her purring (through her ribs).
- My hands cupped around the warmth of a mug of hot tea.
- My feet on the path in the park – the padded feel of an earthen trail under the soles of my shoes.
- The crumbly sweetness of a sugar cookie.
- The taste of rich melty chocolate on my tongue.
I was surprised by how much I noticed the feelings in my fingers, my feet, on my tongue. – and how soothing it felt. Normally I don’t pay too much attention to how something feels, and I suppose I’m usually preoccupied with what I need to do next, or what I haven’t done yet . . . Yet when I noticed how things felt I did feel more present in my surroundings.
So: Week 2, pay attention to details – did it work? Yes – especially for things that I can feel (or taste). It also worked for certain sounds I hear – such as birds chirping, or the water running through the creek in the park.
Can I apply this to my writing? I spent a few minutes thinking about this. Naturally, we all strive to bring the five senses into our writing. This week’s practice made me realize the powerful those feeling details can be. Too often, I find myself writing about what a scene looks like, and I overlook what it feels like. I’m going to try to bring more touch, and more sound, details into my scenes.
Let’s take a look at what Week 3 will bring.
Week 3: Breathe into overwhelm
Breathe into overwhelm — No matter if it’s the lines, deadlines or another political statement from Uncle Joe, a feeling of being overwhelmed and of irritation can take over and cloud your experience of the holidays. Instead of reacting right away, experiment with taking three deep breaths. The oxygen will relax your nervous system and you will create a moment of presence for you to choose your response. Who knows, you may just save yourself and others from even more holiday stress. (From A present you give yourself, and others: being present during the holidays – Sara Harvey Yao in The Seattle Times.)
Hmmm . . . I have heard that taking deep breaths in the middle of the day will help you to think clearer, that oxygen is a powerful engine for the brain. I’m not sure it will make a difference, as it seems like I’m still just as stressed after taking deep breaths as before . . . but we’ll see how this goes!
Your experience of mindfulness?
Thank you to those who have shared your thoughts and experiences with mindfulness. I heard from several photographers that using their camera helps them really see visual details, more than without a camera. That is so cool.
Have a great week!