Noticing is more than seeing

What have you noticed today?

Noticing is the first step in practicing mindfulness, which helps in reducing and becoming more resilient to stress. I believe that noticing is the first step to many discoveries. Don’t be fooled by thinking you can only notice with your eyes. Mindfulness is the practice of awareness or noticing using all your senses without judgment. 

Think about how an infant or toddler discovers or learns: They put everything in their mouth; they roll, scoot or crawl everywhere. Language is developed in much the same way. They cry, coo, babble, and jibber before forming words. The point is that all learning happens through a discovery of the senses and repeated until the task is mastered. Mindfulness is a practice that helps you become more in-tune to the present moment-to-moment living. Becoming aware of what you see in your environment is one dimension of mindfulness but so is being aware of your body's senses and what thoughts and feelings are flowing through your mind and heart and keeping an open, non-judgment attitude about it all.

Keeping an open mind free of judgment is no easy task. The book, “Talk Sense to Yourself” by Chick Moorman, dedicates an entire chapter to providing techniques to promote present moment living. Our minds are overactive these days and most, if not all our education is around learning through repetition and memory. Therefore many are living either in the past or future rather than the present moment. Think about it, students are being tested before preschool, high school students are taking college credit classes while still attending high school and the employed, have to plan their year of work or set goals to meet a quota or mission that keeps the focus moving forward.

One way to slow ourselves down and to live in the moment is to be mindful about the words we use. Chick Moorman states that you can learn to notice patterns in our language that can detect if we are thinking in the future or past. He calls this type of thinking “futuring” and “pasting.” Some examples of “futuring” phrases are: “What if…” – (including “it might” and “it could”) “What if” sentences help you to put negative pictures in your mind and once those pictures are in your mind, you often will then respond emotionally or physically as if imagined scenes are real. If you find yourself saying this phrase, use it as a reminder that you’re living an illusion. Sometimes these phrases come about due to worry. If you are in a habit of worrying, stop and ask yourself if there is a decision you need to make about a present situation. Use these phrases as mindful signals to get back to the present moment.

Living in the past by replaying yesterday, regretting your decisions, feeling guilty, resenting or rehashing are other ways, Moorman states, we give up our personal power by using up present moments. These examples are what he calls pasting, which he states is immobilizing. Some pasting phrases are “if only”, “should have” and “ought to”. When regrets, reminiscing, miss connections and or complaining fill your mind, remember these are really mindful signals to shift out of the illusion-state into the present moment. To become more aware, first be aware of the words you are using. Are they preparing you for positive outcomes or growth oriented or are they limiting or damaging? Mindfulness is about noticing. Michigan State University Extension offers social-emotional health and well-being programming where they teach a series on mindfulness. Peruse their webpage to find a program series in your county.

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