In last month’s post, I offered a case for spending less time looking down at our phones and more time looking up and around at the world. This week, I want to offer some observation techniques or routines to practice looking up. And if you need to set an alert to remind you, I get it!
Listen: When you walk outside in the morning, pause for thirty seconds and notice all the different sounds. And then through the noise, focus on only the birds that you hear. How many different types of bird sounds can you hear? Are those coming from one bird, or maybe from different species? Don’t worry about being able to identify what type of bird you’re hearing, just listen for the birds.
Feel: As you walk into your office building, or take a mid-day break outside, notice the air. Without looking at a thermometer, how warm or cold do you think the air temperature is today? Does the air feel heavy? Wet or dry? Is it smoggy? The actual data doesn’t matter (though you’re welcome to check the current forecast), just get in touch with what you can sense without your ears or eyes.
Taste and Smell: Coffee enthusiasts (myself included) are notorious these days for discovering nuanced flavors and profiles in their morning pick-me-up. I’m not asking that you become as obsessive as us, but take a moment with your next cup. Close your eyes and see what’s there. Breath in the aroma, focus on the coffee and nothing else as you take a sip.
Look up: A few years back I came across the Cloud Appreciation Society and realized that a whole ephemeral, impermanent art show was happening in the sky above me and I wasn’t taking any notice. As you head back into your home this afternoon or evening, pause for a moment and look up. What formations do you notice? How do those clouds look different from ones earlier in the day? Do they look different in the summer than in the winter? How would you describe the cloudscape to someone else?
Discover: With your senses now tuned into the world around you, take intentional notice of the opportunities to make someone’s day better. When you’re driving, can you yield and make room for someone in traffic instead of sending that text? Do you have a spare moment to lend a hand to a colleague instead of checking your social media feed for the fifth time? Is there a friend you might check in with instead of reading another news alert?
Again, I’m not asking for anyone to abandon their smart phone technology, I’m only posing the question about what might happen if we touch our screens 10% less everyday to look up.