Updated: Sep 13, 2021
You will need: a piece of fruit or vegetable that you would eat raw and a knife.
Today we are going to pay attention to the now, to the present. This can also be called mindfulness, being present, awareness and is not necessarily a religious practice. There’s a good little video from the University of Minnesota at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWJUv1lH-Ng
Our aim is to see with wonder, to be amazed. The longer we truly pay attention to something we can see the beauty in it. Children if allowed free time, without the stimulus of planned activities, sport or screens can do this very well. We often forget how to do that as we age.
Do you remember lying on the grass and paying attention to the clouds-almost to the exclusion of everything else?
May Sarton wrote in her Journal of a Solitude:
“If one looks long enough at almost anything,
looks with absolute attention at a flower,
the bark of a tree,
grass, snow, a cloud,
something like revelation takes place.
Something is ‘given’,
and perhaps that something
is always a reality outside the self.
Esther De Waal, Lost in Wonder, (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2003),38.
Today the practice and activity will be intertwined, using your 5 senses.
Inspired by Esther De Waal, Lost in Wonder, (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2003), pp67-69.
Spend at least 5 minutes on each section. If your time is strict (eg due to work/family commitments you might find it easier to set a 5 minute timer, which you just restart at the end of each section for the next one).
Head outdoors, onto a balcony or in a backyard if you can. If not, stand by an open window that has some sort of view, but not of a brick wall. (Although that might be interesting to try.) If possible, stand in your bare feet.
1) Begin in silence, close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. Then begin to pay attention to the sounds around you: man-made or natural. Notice some further away, then those closer. Name them if you can, but don’t get too caught up in that, it’s the listening that is important.
2) Keep your eyes closed and be aware of the air, sun, wind or rain on your skin. Your face, maybe your arms, your feet. Still with your eyes closed, pay attention to the surface you are standing on, being aware of the force of gravity that keeps you planted on the earth. Open your eyes and slowly touch a few things nearby. Hold one of them in your hands, notice the texture, colour, weight and the size. Pick up your fruit or vegetable and hold it, note its texture, colour, weight and size. Place it back down again.
3) Now slowly take in whatever you can see in front of you, as far away as you can see and right in front of you. See what is to your left, to your right, above you or down below. If possible, do a slow 360o turn paying attention to all you see as a continuous view. If you can’t (I know some people have physical limitations), then slowly do the 180o degrees from left to right and back again, noticing anything you didn’t see the first sweep. Take your piece of fruit or vegetable and look at it through your magnifying glass. Really notice what you see.
4) Stand still and notice what you can smell. Whether inside or out there will be some smells. If outside pick a leaf, crush it and note its scent. If inside pick something close by that might have a scent and bring it close so you can breathe it in. Pick up the fruit or vegetable you have chosen and take your time to smell it. See if there any connection to a memory or moment rises for you. If it doesn’t that’s okay, if it does, let it come, acknowledge it and let it go again. Stay with the scent.
5) Look around and notice if there are things within your sight that you would be able to taste. Take your chosen fruit or vegetable and cut it slowly, noting it with all your senses. Cut off and hold a small piece of it. Place it on your tongue, allowing it to sit there while your taste buds register its presence. Slowly chew it, pay attention to how it feels in your mouth, between your teeth: is it soft, hard, crunchy, stringy or crisp? Note as you swallow it and imagine it travelling down your esophagus into your stomach, where your body will do the work to digest it and make the energy available. It’s a wondrous thing we usually take for granted.
“This is the enchantment, this is the exuberance,
the all-compensating wonder.
Giving to common things wild kindred
with the gold-tesserate floors of Joye.”
From Francis Thompson’s, An Anthem of Earth,’ in Esther De Waal, Lost in Wonder, (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2003),
Remember to record how this felt, or anything that came to you through this time. It’s okay if there was nothing in particular, it’s being present through the exercises that matters.
About the authors:
We are both practicing artists with decades of experience in creativity. Through our interests, passions and work we also have experience in developing creative and interactive practices which feed your soul, with the aims of facilitating spiritual and personal growth. We are parents and grandparents and have both been community workers, pastors, and counsellors. We like to help people in their quest to find a greater depth, meaning, peace and enjoyment in life. We also like to facilitate opportunities to deepen people's self-awareness and sense of being by nurturing their soul, strengthening their connections with nature and the divine.
Max has training in: Choice Theory, Spiritual Direction, Labyrinth Facilitation and years in Welfare, Bronwyn has training in Choice Theory, The Enneagram, a Bachelor of Natural History Illustration and is currently a PhD candidate & in Spiritual Direction formation.