It's not generally easy for us human beings to adopt new habits. One thing that helps is to make them easy. Noticing is a habit made easy by my seventh grade teacher and Dick Olney.
Living in Turkey, it was natural to hear the call to worship several times a day. A teacher at the time invited our class to pause whenever we heard it, be quiet, still our bodies and notice. That stuck. When I moved back to the states, sirens and red lights and now the sound of an airplane overhead invites that same pause –modern mindfulness bells.
Long before mindfulness was as accessible as it is today, Dick Olney occasionally talked about noticing practice. He taught how noticing practice can help us "Think in other categories." What he meant by thinking in other categories is to wake up, to wake up from the bad dream of who we think we are IN ANY GIVEN MOMENT.
Woman: What I really want is to love, value and appreciate who I really am.
Dick: What about just experiencing it?
(Excerpted from Alive and Real)
Noticing is a practice like that, an invitation into becoming aware of your experience in the moment. This awareness is an invitation in gradual expansions in acceptance. For acceptance is free from the pull of liking or disliking. The awareness that comes from noticing without the inhibition of judgment, criticism or evaluation is liberated from clinging to some idea of good or bad, right or wrong, pleasant or unpleasant.
Noticing practice can also be an antidote to apathy or pain. You may find yourself savoring the floating moments of time – but that is NOT the goal. The goal is to simply notice.
I took to heart Dick's teaching not to wait until you are in the middle of a fire to practice a fire drill. This idea struck a chord with me. I had been a dancer for about 20 years, practiced yoga and meditation for several years by the time I met Dick. Practice makes sense to me.
Though I do meditate, my noticing practice is not a formal sit down mindfulness meditation kind of practice, but a walking around and pausing to experience life in this moment kind of practice. The savoring of life's floating moments happens unbidden, surprising me. It's a habit that bears fruit in the most surprising places.
Of course, noticing involves acceptance. The more complete the experience of acceptance is, the more interesting I find the noticing and vice versa. It can become a pleasant game of acceptance. Practicing acceptance in this way becomes alive.
In the beginning, it is useful to put your attention to various elements of life generally thought to be noxious, like smelly garbage. Ask yourself, "can I accept this?" Remember, you don't have to like it, you don't have to somehow agree that "it" is ok. The question is "can I accept this?"
Practicing with inanimate objects can have an effect when you encounter another person who you judge as somehow not good or ok, somehow less than OR greater than. First, accept that you are judging them (and you). Then, practice accepting them in that moment. Your acceptance does not mean that you like or approve. It means you can accept that they are present.
For a more disciplined approach to noticing practice, try these tips:
- Set a reminder on your phone or watch every couple of hours or so. You could use an app like CHILL that has inspirational quotes.
- If you spend a lot of time in the car, use stop lights and stop signs to notice.
- For 30 seconds to 1 minute pause, notice. Become aware. Notice your thoughts. Notice the images around you, emotions in the moment and body sensations. Take a few easy breaths. Just noticing.
- Don't aim to find something to appreciate. Linger as you like.
- Simply notice the creation. Notice without the inhibition of judgment, criticism or evaluation.
- Notice your thoughts.
- Notice your breath.
- Use your senses – what are you seeing, feeling, hearing, tasting – what are you sensing?
Practice for a few days. Then share your experience AND your challenges.