Be observant – it will change your attitude

Photo courtesy of Kathy Kornman

Photo courtesy of Kathy Kornman

As I study the concepts of minimalism and simple living, there is one practice that I am learning to embrace: being mindful while living in the moment.

Last weekend, I had no Friday evening plans.  What was I to do? Sit around and watch the paint peel?  No, I decided to head over to a nearby hiking spot, and walk a 5 mile loop.

My only objective for this little walk was to be observant.

To look, listen and truly observe my surroundings, no matter how mundane or small.

I have been on this route dozens of times; it is very familiar.  In my running days, I would blow through this loop at a fast pace.

I appreciate the park’s beauty.  The route gently leads uphill, crosses at the top of the park, and then meanders back down through some beautiful rock formations and scenic views of the city.

About half way through, there is a small bridge crossing a drainage channel.  There was no water running, and yet I decided to sit and observe.

I remained still and quiet for about 20 minutes.  

I had not encountered a human since I started, over an hour prior.  Even while I sat in this quaint little corner on the trail, surrounded by trees, bushes, and animals, no other person passed or was detected.

I was alone at the edge of wilderness.  As I quieted myself, I saw and heard things that one would never notice if they were moving (footsteps make a ton of noise) or talking to another (two people make a ton of noise):

A black beetle the size of a mouse scurrying across the trail.

A flock of small birds flittering into the low bushes.

Numerous bees buzzing in and out of the miniscule flowers before me.

The breeze gently caressing the tree tops.

My breath slowly expanding and contracting.

My heart beat as blood rushed past my ear drums.

I felt alive.  I felt at peace.  I was content.

I did not reflect on the past – it was gone.

I did not fret about the future – it is something I can’t control.

It was the first day of the rest of my life.  I loved dwelling in the moment.  The present is fantastic.  It is the space we all live in.

One foundational concept of minimalism is to make space in one’s life for that which truly matters.  It is not just physical space – but mental and emotional space.

By living in the moment and being keenly observant, we put aside the distractions of the past and future.  This gives us more space to enjoy the present.

We each have a different path to walk – obstacles to surmount, deadlines and commitments, responsibilities.  However, if we can release the distractions of our lives – the things that don’t truly matter – and take time to live in the moment, to be present and observant of what is happening RIGHT NOW, then we will live more effectively.

Brooke at Slow Your Home describes the advantages of embracing a simple, observant lifestyle and philosophy:

You will no longer float through the day caught in your past or your future.  The present will be your reality and you will be capable of living there, soaking it in, learning and participating.  You will be present in all you do.

—  Brooke McAlary

I encourage each of you to take some time to be observant.  Turn off the electronics.  Discard your calendar.  Forget about the past – there is nothing you can do to recapture it.  Ignore your plans for the future, at least for the time being.

Spend time in the present.  Observe, taste, savor, smell, feel – enjoy what today offers.  Your life will be better because of it.

What do you think?  What can you do today to enjoy the present? It is worthwhile! 

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About John Forrest