Your life will be much more memorable if you stop and smell the flowers, or watch a bird build its Nest.
When I lived in Texas, we couldn’t wait for the Bluebonnets. There was a short window of time to take pictures and enjoy their beauty before the heat hit and they withered back. Every year we would take the pups to a local field and snap away, just like all the other families in Texas. We tried to find a spot that wasn’t trampled on and tried not to add to the trampling. It wasn’t always easy. Looking around at the families snapping away at their little angels, I noticed no one was enjoying the flowers. Tensions were high and the kids were getting restless waiting for that perfect shot. Mothers were yelling at dads to take the shot from a kneeling angle or move over to that tree nearby. I’m sure the resulting shots were gorgeous, but what about the opportunity to stop and smell the flowers? Was that lost or was it just a quick scratch and sniff and on to the next errand on the list?
There is more to stopping and smelling the flowers than a quick sniff. Stopping to smell the flowers is about being fully present and appreciating the flowers and having gratitude for them. Don’t just smell the flowers, be with them, look at them, feel them. Notice the color, the details, the patterns, the beauty. Take it all in. Do you see how the experience is different, fuller, than a quick scratch and sniff? Now do this with everything in your life. Don’t inhale your meals in front of the television. Set the table, arrange the silverware, savor the smell and the taste. Make it an active, meditative experience. You will be glad you did.
I got a ton of bruises before I learned this one and I don’t mean figuratively. Until I learned this lesson, I was rarely present with the task at hand. My friend Sioux used to say, “get your seat in your seat” when she would see me drifting off in thought. Meaning get back in your body. Where did the bruises come from? I used to think I was accident-prone. Just check my childhood medical records and you might come to the same conclusion. Well, I wasn’t accident-prone. I was “not-present-prone.” What do I mean by that? Not being present and in the moment, I wasn’t acutely aware of my surroundings. For example, when I would meet a friend for lunch to play racquetball, I would be timing how long it would take to shower, get in the car, and drive back to work so that I wouldn’t exceed my hour. I wasn’t fully enjoying the game. As soon as the match was over and before we walked out of the room, I was already thinking about the shower and my drive back. I would inevitably walk into the door on my way out of the court, bruising my arm. My husband used to say “can you put something with sleeves on when we go out? It looks like I beat you.” The lesson is be present and aware of your surroundings. You will see more, feel more and have richer memories. For me being present and looking at my surroundings not only made the experience more memorable and richer, but it also kept me from looking like I was a member of a fight club.
Being aware of my surroundings became meditative for me as well. I work from home and had a bird feeder outside of my window and a small bird bath. Before long the tree that held the feeder became the placeholder for a birds nest. I watched as a bird slowly built her nest, her new home. She trusted the sacred space I tried to create. When a call got stressful, I would focus on the birds, and squirrels, I could feel my blood pressure lower, it wasn’t just a safe space for the birds, it turns out it was my safe place as well. I would have missed that had I left my blinds down, and kept my full focus on my computer.