Learning to pay attention to the world around me saved my spirit from withering and dying.
A few years ago while I was still in Thailand, I discovered a mindful writing practice called 'Small Stones'—a short piece of writing that precisely captures a fully engaged moment. It's about keeping your eyes open for beauty, simple or extraordinary, then observing it and writing it exactly as you saw it and by doing so developing a deeper engagement with the world around you.
It was this practice that helped me to transition back to city, corporate life amidst the glass and concrete without suffocating after living my carefree gypsy scuba-diving lifestyle in a tropical paradise. It was this practice that helped me to discover the beauty in everyday suburban and city life. It was this practice that connected me to the world around me in a very simple yet deep and magical way.
Paying attention is a practice. It's easy to fall back to sleep and become so lost in our thoughts or worried about the next moment that we close our eyes to the present moment. Each moment we fully observe with an open heart and gratitude is transformed from ordinary to extraordinary. It is the sum of all these moments that form our beautiful and intricate lives.
Writing and photographing small stones is a practice I still keep because it has been my invitation to wonder. Wonder is an amazement with life. It is something we feel when something we have experienced touches us and is what makes us feel alive. The more deeply we look at our lives, the more easily we can see how miraculous they are, how there is a great mystery at work that holds us and that weaves its way through everything we see, touch, feel, breathe, hear and dream.
To invite wonder into your life, all you have to do is set an intention to be open to the wonder of the ordinary world around you and then remember:
Remember to watch for what flirts with you and captures your attention during your day. Maybe it is cloud, or a leaf falling, or how lovers hold hands on the train. Maybe it is the smell of rain on a summers day. Maybe it is the ticking of the kitchen clock.
Remember to pay attention to what flirts with you. What does it look like, smell like, sound like, taste like, feel like? How do you feel noticing it? Maybe you want to write it down or take a photo or express and honour it in some other way?
It is by regarding the ordinary moments of our lives with reverence that we recognise the whole of our life and all of its parts as sacred.
With love and courage,
PS These photos were one of my recent practices of wonder as the Japanese Maple outside my bedroom window transformed from summer green to autumn amber, tangerine and red before finally shedding its dress. Every morning I got out of bed and went to my window and stood there for a moment paying attention, receiving its beauty and 'taking' a photo. What a wonderful transformation it was.
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