“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life” Rachel Carson
What we see in the world around us is to a large extent a matter of choice. Do we take time every day to look, really look, at things? To find the beauty, or the humor, or the charm, or the mystery in them? When riding the bus to work, do we stare aimlessly out the window, or do we make an effort to look at the color of the sky, the shapes of the clouds? Do we look closely enough to allow ourselves to be delighted by the funny little dog trotting along the sidewalk? Or to feel sympathy, or admiration, or sadness when we watch an elderly woman walking slowly and carefully out her front door?
It is natural to be preoccupied by our own thoughts, or to be lulled into not noticing all that is around us while we do routine errands. And there is nothing wrong in daydreaming from time to time. But the more we can be mindful of what we are doing as we are doing it, the healthier and happier we will be.
practice: When our mind wanders – whether while eating, doing the dishes, writing a report, or walking to our car- we can gently shift our focus back to the wonders that are everywhere to be found.
The best advice that I can think of for becoming more mindful is to read – and reread – Helen Keller’s essay “Three Days to See.” keller, who lost her sight and hearing when she was nineteen months old as a result of an illness, writers about what she would do if she were given back the use of these sense for just three days. In the essay, she recounts a conversation she had with a friend who returned from an hour – long walk in the woods. Keller asks her friend what she saw, and the friend replies, “Nothing in particular” Keller wanders how it is possible to walk through the woods and yet see nothing worthy of note:
I who am blind can give one hint to those who see – one admonition to those who would make full use of the gift of sight: Use your eyes as if tomorrow you would be stricken blind.. Hear the music of voices, the song of a bird, the mighty strains of an orchestra, as if you want to touch as if tomorrow your tactile sense would fail. Smell the perfume of flowers, taste with relish each morsel, as if tomorrow you could never smell and taste again. Make the most of every sense; glory in all the facets of pleasure and beauty which the world reveals to you.
Sometimes all we need to do is open our senses and take in the wonders of the world. Helen Keller, despite her inability to hear or see, can remind us of how privileged we are to be able to directly experience the most precious treasures that are around us and within us- sights and sounds, tastes and textures, smells and sensations.