When was the last time you sat in a busy place, like an airport, coffee shop, or bar and truly focused on the world around you? With a cup of coffee or tea (or a libation of your choice) in front of you, you simply observed life around you with no judgment or expectations, no plans to act upon what you saw. I’m not advocating for creepy staring here, just noticing in a reverent way how people interact with each other and the environment around them.
When was the last time you consciously slowed down enough to notice the world around you?
Throughout my life, much like your life I am sure, the accessibility to distractions has become more and more abundant. Everywhere we go there seems to be something to distract us—the tv, your phone, music, the internet—something we may unconsciously tune into to occupy our minds and to satisfy that need to resist boredom or to be productive.
At what cost?
If everywhere we go our eyes and thoughts are focused on what’s in our hands, do we completely miss what’s happening right in front of us? Are we missing a conversation that would change our lives? Are we missing the opportunity to help someone in need? We’ll never know unless we stop and notice.
Here’s how I’m attempting to notice more and it’s not as easy as you’d think.
When Things Don’t Go Your Way
A few days ago, I made a plan to write from a coffee shop. I packed up all my “things” and headed out. As I sat waiting for my breakfast and coffee, I opened my computer and, to my surprise, a low battery symbol flashed back at me...
Stop the Emotional Hijacking
An initial panic ensued. “How could this be? My computer is always charged! Now what am I going to do while I sit here and eat all by myself?" My heart raced, my breath quickened, and I immediately went searching for something, anything to calm me down.
Choose Your Response
At least I have my phone, I thought. That will suffice.
As I reached for my phone, which I had purposefully tucked into a pocket of my purse before I sat down so it wouldn’t be a distraction, I thought to myself, “Seriously, do you have to have your phone? Can’t you just sit here, quietly, attentively, and enjoy your breakfast and coffee without distractions?”
The phone didn’t go back in the purse. (Baby steps here, friends, baby steps.) It did, however, stay off. It sat right there next to me, black screen staring as me as I ate and sipped my coffee... and as I watched people come and go and interact with each other, support each other, make connections.
Begin to Notice
I noticed the three people sitting next to me on their phones, the people walking by outside and how their hair was whipping in the wind, the waitstaff who were frustrated because the orders weren’t coming out correctly, I noticed it all. The things I observed that morning were in no way groundbreaking or enlightening in and of themselves; however, my experience of observing was enlightening for me.
I realized I didn’t need my phone or another distraction.
I knew this was a conscious choice to put down my phone.
I was aware of my choice and acknowledged it.
I could sit alone and enjoy my food and surroundings.
And it was all going to be ok.
So the next time you're in an airport, coffeeshop, mall, wherever, take a moment to sit and to notice. What do you see? What do you feel? Are you uncomfortable with what others might be thinking about you? Do you feel compelled to take something, anything, out and to look at it? Sit with those feelings for bit, no judgment, and just notice. Notice how people are interacting with each other. What do you see?
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