Of all the senses, for most of us, vision – seeing – is probably the dominant one. And yet, a lot of the time we don’t really see what’s in front of us, let alone what’s to the side, above or below. And so we miss out on enjoying the richness that’s there just waiting for us to open our eyes.
When we’re on automatic pilot we could walk through a field of bright red poppies without registering the spectacle, or through a sea of people and not take in a single one of them (let alone the guy in the gorilla suit!). Remembering to open up to seeing what’s around us can be a very rewarding mindfulness practice.
Sometimes though it just seems like there’s too much to notice – it’s overwhelming – and so we close back down. Or it might all seem very familiar and mundane. So it can be useful to have some approaches to working with mindful looking. Here are a few ideas:
- Decide on a particular colour, say yellow, and look out for it that day. You may be amazed at how splashes of yellow in many different shades start popping out at you all over the place. It makes everything around you seem more vivid as well. You could choose a different colour on each day of the week. Maybe you’ll find yourself in a much brighter world by the end of it. (Idea inspired by Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones)
- To free yourself from “tunnel vision”, remind yourself to look around – to either side, down below and up above – as you walk, sit or stand in places. You could adopt “holiday eyes” – like when you’re a tourist in a new, delightful place, relaxed and curious, naturally letting your gaze wander around. Again, you might be surprised at what new things you see, even in a street you’ve walked down countless times before.
- Every now and then just stop and drink in what’s before you – crows circling in the sky, wind moving through trees, colours and shapes – as if you’re feasting on it all. But letting go of wanting to grasp at the scene by instantly photographing it, or by mentally forming descriptive words about it to tell your friend later. You could do the same with people when you’re listening to them, unobtrusively noticing little things about them, maybe the laugh lines round their eyes, or the set of their shoulders.
Of course, we can’t completely isolate our senses one from the other, so there will also be hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting going on. Focusing mainly on one sense though can also be a kind of gateway into noticing other sensory input too.
These are just a few suggestions of approaches to refresh our seeing eyes. If you have any thoughts on this or ideas of your own to share I’d love to hear them.
Photo credit: Norfolk Poppy Field by Nick Ford