I love taking my 3 and half year old son Ari to daycare in the morning. We talk as we stroller – always pointing out things to notice.
“Look at that poodle in a bright pink coat!”
“The air feels a little wet – like it could rain.”
“That woman we just passed smells like flowery perfume.”
“I love how that home has a bright red door!”
One day it occurred to me that what Ari and I were doing together was practicing mindfulness – and that’s why we always arrived at his daycare in such a happy mood.
I thought about trying to explain “mindfulness” to my 3 and a half year old. (Hey, I’m a self help author who writes about happiness tools. It’s my instinct to raise my son learning happiness tools! ) I started out with wobbly words.
“Hey Ari,” I said, “I have a new word I want to teach you.”
“New word?” he asked.
“Yes, you know how we always go the same path to daycare – yet we always notice that things are different – in some way. For example, the people walking down the street alongside us are different people. The cars we’re passing are different cars – and, thereby, lots of different colors. The weather in the air has a different temperature – and even a different smell sometimes. Our clothes are different. The conversation we’re having is different.”
“Yes,” he said.
“Well, it’s also very important to notice that the possibilities in the day ahead of you are different, too. You should try to be aware of what is different each day – because each day holds something new to see, something new to hear, something new to learn, something new to experience. And today – there’s even a new word for you to learn. The word mindfulness.”
“Mindfulness?” he repeated.
“Yes, mindfulness is when you notice all of these little different details,” I told Ari. “Mindfulness is when you’re fully present in the moment – seeing, hearing, noticing the details in the world around you.”
“Sounds like a game of ‘I Spy’!” Ari said.
“’I Spy’?” I asked.
“’Yes,” Ari said. “In the game ‘I Spy” you’re supposed to notice things – look for things – then point them out.”
“Hmmm… yes, mindfulness is a lot like playing ‘I Spy.’ But the goal of this ‘Mindfulness Game’ is to particularly look out for things which make you smile – make you feel happy.”
“I like that,” Ari said.
“‘I Spy’ a smile on your face,” I told him.
“I’m happy to play ‘I Spy,’ with you,” he told me.
Ever since this conversation, our family loves to play ‘I Spy’ wherever we go – always “spying” interesting people, artwork, architecture, smells, colors. Living in New York City, we quickly realized we’ve got plenty to notice.
This game of “I Spy” is a fun mindfulness tool to practice wherever you live – and not only with friends, paramours, family – but even silently to yourself – to prevent the potential “daily blindness” Paulo Cuelho wrote about.
“You can become blind by seeing each day as a similar one,” Cuehlo wrote. “Each day is a different one, each day brings a miracle of its own. It’s just a matter of paying attention to this miracle.”
Nobel Prize winning scientist Daniel Kahneman wrote about how we each experience about 20,000 individual “moments” in a day. According to Kahneman, each of these individual “moments” lasts but a mere few seconds. When you’re fully, mindfully present (instead of being caught up with regrets about the past or worries about the future) you’re able to appreciate life’s beautiful “now time” moments – and thereby our life doesn’t become one big “blur time.”
I’m a big believer that part of the reason we love music and art is because they are opportunities to live in “now time” – not “blur time.” When we’re listing to a song we love – or gazing steadfast at a painting which entrances us – we’re fully present in a “still frame” moment – mindfully in “now time.” The same thing goes for why we doubly enjoy a delicious meal. Sure, yummy food is fun to eat. But part of why it’s fun is because we’re stopped in time when we savor an awesome taste sensation!
I also believe that “now time” is how you create a memory! When you’re living mindfully in the moment you’re “freeze framing” a moment in time – and this is what creates a memory! It then makes sense that the less memories you have during specific times in your life, the more likely it’s because you were speed-forwarding through each moment – not living in “now time.” Likewise, the more memories you have from specific times in your life, it’s because these were precious times – when you were deeply aware of the miracles of your life – and living fully and consciously.
IN SUMMARY: If you want to love your life more – you can begin by living and loving more of it – by living and loving more of those teeny-tiny, awesome moments in your day! Decide you will now choose to keep your eyes open for what makes a “new today” different unto itself from any other day. Share with the people in your life this idea of committing to noticing details – even playing “I Spy” together as you head out to a movie or meal. I promise that if you do this regularly, you will train your brain to live more in the now – focused on the beauty around you – instead of obsessing about the past or fearing the future! As a result, you will not only experience more happiness on a daily basis, but a month from now you will be able to look back and have more happy memory moments to appreciate.
I’d love to hear your insights on the comment section below! What’s something which comes to your mind and heart when you read about this mindfulness tool? Share your personal story! I LOVE it when you share your insights, stories and philosophies – because I love to find out about my community – and learn from you too! Plus, many thousands of peeps read this inspirational website – so, what you share could be a helpful inspiration for someone else! xo Karen