This morning, while sipping whisked matcha from my favorite tea bowl, I noticed the frothy, milky consistency of the tea. The slightly astringent, grassy, warm-cream taste. I could feel its buttery body across my lips, swirl the deliciousness in my mouth, and then gingerly swallow it, savoring the delicateness of this shade grown, exotic green tea.
Sitting there in the simple present moment, I noticed the tea.
The ability to notice more of life, the little things specifically, correlates directly to how good you feel about yourself, other people, the situation you’re in, and the state of the world. There are so many distractions pulling on our attention, that’s the stress of it all is even said to make us a bit crazy. And that’s why noticing is so important.
Learning to notice is…
Good for the body. Noticing the breath can help our heart rate go down.
Good for the mind. Noticing helps us slow down, and de-clutter the brain, giving us the chance to focus on what’s important.
Good for the spirit. It leads to appreciation, and appreciation and gratitude lift the spirits.
Good for our relationships. Noticing others when communicating with them allows us to step out of the drama of the moment – and see that person from a different perspective, giving us the chance to communicate differently and hopefully more constructively.
Good for the earth. Noticing our daily actions leads to making better environmental decisions.
How to Notice
Learning to notice is not easy, but it is simple. Start really small. As small as possible. As in, “this present moment.” In order to notice this moment just take a breath and notice.
Breathe in through the nose. There’s so much there that it could take a lifetime noticing the inhale. How does the air feel moving through your nostrils? How does it feel going down the back of your throat? How does it feel when it enters your torso? Does it just fill your lungs? Or does it enter the abdomen expanding the area around your navel?
How does that precipice moment feel? No exhale, no inhale, just balance there. Where does your attention go during that pinpoint pause? Where do your eyes look to? Where does your mind wander? Notice that moment.
Slowly let the air out through the nose. Notice where the air moves. Notice the temperature of the air. How fast does the air rush out of your body. Notice the effect your throat has on the movement. Notice the muscles in your face as you exhale.
How does it feel to let go? To let go of the breath. To let go of everything with that exhale. How does the emptiness feel? Does it feel free, or are you anxious for the next breath.
I find that wherever I am, the ability to notice my breath radically improves the experience – the experience in my body, and the experience I’m having outside my body with people or things. There’s a cool breathing practice that has been employed by military and pro athletes called resilience breathing that I find pretty fascinating.
After you practice a bit with noticing the breath, it’s really enjoyable to take this skill “outside.” Notice the feeling of the sidewalk on the soles of your feet as you walk around the block. Notice the feeling of a fork in your hand as you eat your dinner. Pick the most mundane meal possible, and notice the beauty of the nourishment in front of you. The color, shape, texture and of course aroma, taste, mouthfeel, and aftertaste of a single bite. Of broccoli. Of oatmeal. Of a potato chip.
Noticing During Hard Discussions
When you find yourself embroiled in a heated discussion try this:
- Notice a single breath, inhale and exhale.
- Notice the adversary. Notice their clothing. Their gestures. Their face. Notice the sound of the words coming out of them. Notice their stress or lack of it.
- Notice the loudness of the discussion.
- Notice your breathing, again.
- Notice your heartbeat.
- Notice the palpability of the air between the two of you.
- Notice the others’ perspective.
- Notice your perspective. The ability to notice more is very advantageous. It helps get you out of your skin, and to step above the situation – to make more compassionate and effective decisions.
The more “stuff” inundating us every day the more we get distracted and the less we can notice the little things, the important things in life. Reduce the distractions hitting us every second of the day, and noticing gets easier. Check out the book my friend Leo wrote on the challenge of distraction and the art of focus.
When our emotions consume us we are swept away in their tempestuous waves. It’s hard to get out of that storm. My best advice to finding a raft in the storm of emotion is to remove distraction, start small and notice the breath, and to simply realize that the mood is like weather. It will pass through. Don’t deny the mood. Just notice it fully.
How to Get Better at Noticing
Right now. Do the breathing exercise of noticing a breath, inhale, hold, exhale. Also check out this really nice little, simple book on mindfulness that helps with practice in daily life.
I find that the art of brewing, sipping, and savoring tea is a great training ground for noticing. It can take as little as five minutes. It tastes great. It can be social. And drinking tea is healthy.