Just being aware of your body and the surroundings can be a meditation in itself. Moments of awe happen on a daily basis, the challenging part is stopping to see them.
Last week, I was driving to class consumed with thought. Mindlessly driving thinking about how I felt stagnant. I slowed down as I approached the longest stoplight ever on Lindbergh and zoned out looking at the trees nearby. They almost looked like glitter against the backdrop of crystal blue sky. In that moment, I felt like time slowed down and suddenly I didn't mind waiting at the light. I stared at the tree leaves brushing against each other in shades yellow green, and orange thinking how lucky I was to live in a place with trees (Kansas City folks, you're really missing out).
The Simplicity of Awe
Being attentive to the smallest of details is a beautiful concept, but strangely difficult to accomplish. We are constantly inundated with stimulus and thought. Noise of the radio, anxiety about the dreaded 2 pm dentist appointment --we rarely stop to think, I am alive. I am here. I am experiencing.
We don't have to understand everything or give purpose to everything. Sometimes we can derive the most contentment from simply sitting in our comfy chairs and watching the trees sway out the window. Feeling, listening, breathing.
Not all forms of meditation require you to have your eyes closed. In fact, many people enjoy it more to open their senses than more traditional meditation practices that restrain the senses. You can practice mindfulness meditation anywhere at anytime, without even having to sit down or stay still. It's an effective strategy to help you relax in moments of anxiety at any point in your day. Practice non-attachment towards anything you sense--nothing is labeled either "good" or "bad".
How to Practice Sense Meditation
- Find a spot to practice. An area in nature or looking out the window usually works well for me.
- See. Start by observing what you see in front of you, then slowly zoom out. Observe your hands, your nose, your legs. Become familiar with your physical perspective in space. Notice fine details that you normally would glance over that are directly in front of your body. Take note of colors and textures or details of a nearby object. Gradually, widen your focus. If you are in a room, observe the ceiling, walls, and floor. If your outside, direct your gaze to the sky or further distances on the horizon. How far can you zoom out and remain focused?
- Feel. Draw your attention to the soles of your feet and toes. What are your feet touching? Observe the texture of your shoe or the sensation of your feet on the floor. Is your body making contact with anything else? Detect the temperature of the air on your skin. Do you feel wind? What do your clothes feel like against your skin? How does your body feel in the space around you?
- Hear. Bring your attention to sounds of your environment. If you're outside, do you hear birds or cars? If you're in a cafe, do you hear voices or the steam of an espresso machine? Even notice something as simple as the hum of the A/C. Be like Simon & Garfunkel-- contemplate the "Sound of Silence".
- Smell. Focus on the smells around you. Does it smell earthy and warm like a bonfire? If a certain smell brings up a memory, acknowledge the memory and let it go. Experience each new breath as a new opportunity to observe smell.
- Taste. If you are eating or drinking, become completely immersed in the taste. Enjoy the flavor with curiosity as if you were an alien to the planet eating a banana for the first time (however, please be familiar enough with this fruit to remove the peel). What flavors linger in your mouth? Is it sweet or bitter? Is it salty? Notice the nuances.