Contemplative Photography & Reflections

The Art of Noticing

“A shaft of gold light streams across my field of vision as I stare at the yellow pinewood floor this afternoon. Specks of dust are illuminated, whirling and sparkling, dancing. The chickadee’s song goes into my scalp and down the back of my spine like liquid notes turned into heat. The sun is warming one side of my face.

I am so at peace. There’s nothing more to need or want. Nowhere I’d rather be. The humming of my mind is at rest, like sediment that has settled to the bottom of a glass of water. It’s still, perfect. There’s a warm, deep, calm feeling permeating everywhere.

How could I have missed this pleasure for so many years?”

Citation: Dobisz, Jane (2008). One Hundred Days of Solitude: Losing Myself and Finding Grace on a Zen Retreat. Boston: Wisdom Publications.

Most summers, I go kayaking nearly every day and spend some of the time paddling hard and getting exercise and the rest of the time slowing down and noticing with intensity. At times, I look for something in particular, such as a great blue heron or bald eagle. I know what kind of tree the bald eagles favor and scan the branches and leaves ever so carefully. Other times, I just keep my senses alert and receptive, curious about what hidden treasures may be revealed.

Since my river time is greatly reduced this year, I’ve found a new sanctuary in a nearby park. I especially enjoy retreating to the labyrinth, which is surrounded by flowers of all shapes and colors. Every time I go there, I expect to notice something new – perhaps a new kind of flower blooming, a different kind of butterfly, or the sunlight passing through a flower at just the right angle.

The labyrinth is a magical place. After walking through the threshold, I focus my attention on my footsteps, making it a walking meditation. At the beginning, some thoughts enter my mind, and I try to let them pass like clouds in the sky above me. As I proceed along the winding path, I usually begin to notice sounds. Today it was birdsong and crickets. And I really connect with the flowers and flower energy, too. Whether I’m listening, seeing, or focusing on my footsteps, one thing I’m not doing is thinking. Thinking cannot occur when you’re listening, seeing, or noticing deeply. And that is why the labyrinth is such a magical place for me. I become absorbed in pure sensory awareness and am released from the tyranny of the chattering mind for a while. It is wonderful.

Blessings and beauty reveal themselves as I walk the labyrinth, and when I exit through the threshold, I’m never the same as I was when I entered. I feel more peaceful, serene, harmonious, aware.

Last weekend, it rained one morning, and once the rain stopped, I felt compelled to go to the park. When I got there, I was drawn to a patch of lilies and entered “the zone” in which my sense of sight was heightened. Eckhart Tolle would call it “entering the Now.” It is that place of no-thinking, just sensory awareness. I noticed a tiny green tree frog inside a yellow lily.

I immediately fell in love with this little frog who gazed at the center of the lily as if in awe. I imagined myself as only an inch long and realized what a fascinating sight the center of that flower must be!

Or the center of an echinacea flower, vibrantly colorful and otherworldly with countless tiny green spears and larger orange ones that gradate into red at the tips. How could bees and butterflies resist such a spectacular sight?

Walking on the peninsula trail between the river and the canal, I was struck by how beautiful leaves and berries looked with the sunlight shining through them.

Inside the labyrinth, I watched a giant swallowtail butterfly fluttering its wings at lightning speed as it touched down on one flower after another.

What I am describing is fascination. Fascination with the little things that tend to go unnoticed. And fascination with larger things that are often tarnished with opinion and mental commentary.

Today, I returned to the park and once again found a tree frog nestled inside a lily.

Here is a closer view:

That tiny frog looked so calm, almost as if s/he was meditating or praying. “Life is good,” thought the little green tree frog nestled protectively inside a glorious pastel universe!

Then I walked the labyrinth. There weren’t any new flowers calling to me, so I focused on my footsteps and on sounds. And then all of a sudden, I noticed the shadows cast by grass and small plants on the slate tiles of the labyrinth!

How exquisite! Each slate tile had become a piece of art as the sun and adjacent plants interacted with it! I have walked this labyrinth countless times. Why hadn’t I ever noticed this before?

Because there is always something new to notice.

This opens up a whole new creative world! And that’s what I love about not thinking: Possibilities emerge all of a sudden. It’s as if the guard at the gate is asleep, and creative ideas can slip right in.

Beauty truly is everywhere when the mental commentary subsides. And this is true outside of the labyrinth, as well.

Since my last post, the PCB dredging barges moved even closer, and one is currently anchored right in front of our house with four more right behind it. I have had months to come to terms with this, and since I can’t do anything about it, I figure I might as well be fascinated, just like I was with the tree frog in the lily and the butterfly on the echninacea.

The lights at night are actually quite beautiful reflected on the water, if you don’t think about why they’re there.

Fascination is a much more pleasurable manner of traveling through life than grumping and groaning or believing we know all there is to know about the world around us. Life takes on a whole new dimension when we allow people, places, things, living creatures, etc. to surprise us, in a good way!

“Attention is an alchemy
That turns dullness to beauty
And anxiety to ease.”
-Steve Taylor

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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