Surprises and Delights
by Linda Anderson Krech
The cheapest, easiest, simplest way to feel more alive is to savor the world.
So many potential delights are wasted on us because we are lost in thought. When you open the cabinet to get your coffee cup in the morning, do you notice if any of the cups are gleaming from the kitchen light, vying for your attention, or are you thinking about the pandemic statistics you just heard?
A little gleam on a cup doesn’t sound like much, but it’s uplifting. It’s a cup’s way of smiling, and showing itself off to us. When you close the cabinet, do you notice the shadow formed from the cabinet knob, or are you wondering if you have time to make oatmeal? And what about shadows, which come and go throughout the day — do you check from time to time to see what they have to say?
Many of us are so accustomed to being preoccupied. We pay only minimal attention to the world, just enough to find our way around and get where we need to go. Without even realizing it, we are caught up in the world of our internal phenomena. To be preoccupied is to be already occupied. Life cannot touch us in the same way if we are already full and busy.
If we have the presence of mind to direct our attention in a deliberate way, the world will reveal countless surprises and delights that can change our experience of being alive. And, based on my experience, the change can be significant.
When we connect with the world in a sensory way it helps us to feel more sane. Let’s call it “sanifying”. Whereas our private world can run wild and take us where we’d rather not go — the list of tormenting things we can worry about is endless — the common sensory world we share can keep us grounded, upright and centered, and it can do so quickly and simply.
But it takes some practice to activate this presence of mind. You can work with natural auditory cues, such as the call of a bird, the honk of a car, or the ring of the phone, to bring you back to the sensory world, as Thich Nhat Hanh so wisely recommended. Whatever sounds are naturally occurring in your environment can become prompts for your presence-of-mind practice. Or if you prefer a more systematic approach, you can program prompts through your phone. And I’m sure Alexa would be happy to help.
When you do have the presence of mind, shift from any internal preoccupations you may be entertaining to the real world you are embedded in right at that moment. What do you find there? What can you experience directly through your senses?
Listen in a focused way. Experience the texture and tune into the fragrance of life. Look freshly at the world with curiosity and intensity, as though you were seeing it for the first time. As though you had just burst through a private bubble and landed smack dab in the sensory world. Look with the eyes of an artist.
“Art is neither a profession nor a hobby. Art is a way of being . . . I have learned that what I have not drawn I have never really seen, and that when I start drawing an ordinary thing, I realize how extraordinary it is, sheer miracle.” — Frederick Franck
When we tune into the world, we honor it. We also get closer to the magical sensory mode we had as kids, when life was an adventure and we were passionate investigators. Kids naturally know how to play because they follow their sensory impulse. They are exquisite teachers for us, with all of our analysis, our important thoughts, ideas, opinions, comparisons, perspectives, memories, plans and internal debates.
Your personal home is undoubtedly filled with sensory intrigue. The natural world that we share is everchanging and infinitely rich. And the establishments that we share — supermarkets, and even banks, and airports, can deliver surprise and delight if we invite them to.
Right now Brazil is gleaming at me from the mosaic globe that sits on our living room table. Brazil is lit up by the early morning light. It catches my attention. And then reminds me of our friend, Blaze, who gave us the globe. I’d like to call her this weekend. And then I recall a news report I heard yesterday about Brazil and Bolsonaro. And then worries about right-wing extremism begin swarming my mind . . .
Weaving inside and outside, the attention dance continues. The more we punctuate our ruminations with darts of awareness in the larger world, the more alive we’ll feel. The more we activate our childhood wisdom, the more surprises and delights we’ll discover.
Anything gleaming at you right now, trying to get your attention? Any fleeting shadows trying to make you smile? You never know. Don’t miss the show.