Noticing little things & little thinks

Noticing at work. Noticing on the cushion. And noticing while out and about. These three are related, but I am still figuring out how.

Noticing little things & little thinks
Photo by Brian Kerr.

I’ve written about the power of noticing before:

Beyond all this, I spend a certain amount of time and effort on a meditation cushion, where mental noting has been a tremendous relief and balm over the years. (Briefly, mental noting is a practice of noticing and ‘tagging’ or ‘noting’ without discussion or judgement any and all experiences, including sensations and thoughts, as they arise.)

There is some capability and a lot of joy that travels alongside seeing things with a little less presumption, a little less judgement, and a little less of a rush towards sense-making.

Noticing while out and about

A great way to try different ways of seeing and experiencing is to play some of the games in Rob Walker’s The Art of Noticing. One example is the “secret scavenger hunt” of looking for security cameras while running an errand: which cameras want to be seen?—and which want to remain hidden?

The most fun and easy starting point for The Art of Noticing is a series of 12 short (7-minute) audio segments from Waking Up. Walker explains his premise and shares a bunch of little games you can play anytime. Listen here:

The Art of Noticing | Waking Up
Open the door to a deeper understanding of yourself—with guided meditations and insights for living a more examined life.

Note: Waking Up is a paid, subscription service, but using the link above you can access a free 30-day trial, no payment method required. This would be plenty of time to listen through The Art of Noticing. Waking Up will also give you a free subscription if you want to use it but cannot easily pay for it.

The ant’s puzzle

How is observing the bottoms of coffee mugs (a Rob Walker staple) similar to looking carefully for those places where workplace environments produce errors, injury, and waste?

And what do both of these have in common with the experience of sitting quietly for a moment and paying careful attention to the quantity of thoughts that arise unbidden and just as quickly fall away?

I don’t have a tidy answer. I wish I did.

I can see that these three are related somehow, meaningfully. It is as if they were three legs of a stool that I—as an ant—endlessly crawl to and fro and back to, without apprehending the larger structure. I will keep trying, and I encourage you to give it a go as well.