What Do You Notice?
The first practice we’ll look at is Mindfulness. As Jon Kabat-Zinn points to in Wherever You Go There You Are, many of us go through our days quite unaware of how we’re thinking or feeling. Such ‘unconsciousness’ creates huge problems. These include the dangerous lead-in to unattended fears and negativity taking over our thoughts. Over time, we lose confidence in our ability to redirect our energies toward greater fulfillment.
I liken Mindfulness to the Noticing Journal I keep each day (see Parting Reflections). Its purpose is to notice who I’m being (e.g., character traits, attitudes and beliefs) and my impact on others. Noticing at heart is a way-of-thinking. It involves all the presence of mind about which Jon Kabat-Zinn writes.
Can You Be a “Beginner”?
The observer-of-life mode embodied by Mindfulness leads us right into our second practice called Beginner’s Mind.
Beginner’s Mind adopts the attitude, “Hmmm…is that so…?” There’s no preconceived way of doing things – no assumptions or conclusions. You don’t need to figure out everything. Beginner’s Mind is akin to curiosity. Curiosity is open – almost playful.
Such a way of looking at the world is completely contrary to typical North American thought. Yes, we love to place labels on everything that happens – good, bad, right, wrong, etc.
What if we instead adopted an inquisitive posture? Do you think more neutrality would allow you to merely notice people and events without judging them? I do!
The Top Ten List
Imagine you were a character in a play (where the play is your life). As you ‘act out’ your role, observe your feelings and actions – as if you were standing in the wings while watching your performance. To guide your thinking, here are some introspective questions:
- Who are you typically ‘being’ in a day? (i.e., qualities, character, personality traits, attitudes, beliefs)
- What do you observe about your impact on others?
- What triggers tend to derail you from your ideal state?
- What (common) patterns or themes do you notice as you take an observer’s stance?
- What do you learn when you take a ‘mindful’ look at your daily interactions?
- How can you get more ‘curious’?
- How can you be more ‘playful’ as you watch yourself?
- Do you ever preconceive how things ‘should’ be? If so, how can you stop?
- What can you to do make sure you don’t apply judgments or negative labels upon what you see and experience?
- When you go off your game plan (in terms of what you notice), what are three things you can do to get back on course?
It should come as no surprise that I would encourage you to take away the Action Exercise of opening up your own Noticing Journal. Simply, you write five short statements of observation per day that capture your emotions and/or reactions to situations. That’s it.
The intent is to promote self-awareness. Over time, you’ll locate distinct patterns. These will yield further excellent clues about your strengths. Keep building on them!
For those unused to journaling, it may feel like this practice would take a lot of time. It doesn’t nor shouldn’t. In fact, if you’re spending more than minutes on this daily exercise, you’re spending way too long! After all, we’re not talking about a complicated meditation process here.
Anyone can do this. So, the next time you’re starting to feel yourself go ‘unconscious’, remember Richard Eyre’s words: “Don’t just do something, sit there!” Think about that one for a moment.