We are programmed to be vigilant: to think ahead, to anticipate problems, to correct our errors. “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”
Unfortunately, all this planning to avoid going wrong and retrospective analysis of where we went wrong can make it harder to be happy. Today, I’ll give you one thing to do that will be fun, won’t cost you anything, and is repeatable as often as you like.
I’ll talk about a city walk where most of us are intent on our destination and want to arrive promptly. We focus on what we are going to do later or troubled about some other problem. Instead, be alive to the walk — the people, the sidewalk, the architecture — the tops of buildings you rarely view. Be alive to the sounds, the birds singing, the trees rustling and moving.
Remember when you were a kid and you witnessed the movement of clouds, entranced for minutes at a time? Be a kid again. Be amazed again.
Do you recollect when you were a child in the back seat with adults in the front? Recall watching the cars go by, the trucks go by, and the train crossings. Remember counting the Buicks or the box cars? Recall getting dizzy looking at the passing train?
Remember deciding to count just one kind, one make, or one color of automobile? Remember how easy it was to make life into a game?
What will you see on your walk? What will you be mindful of? What will you notice?
Look, really look!
Look with fresh eyes!
Let the game begin!
Different bags, hats, accents.
People carrying things, carrying themselves.
The gyros, hot dog, and bakery scents.
The wide, the narrow; the tall, the short.
The high heels, the low heels, the flats, and the sneakers.
The covered up and the uncovered.
The mini-skirts and the maxi-dresses.
The muscular and the thin, the shapely and the ship-shape.
The round and the right-angled.
The ones looking at the jets or listening to electronics or talking to their neighbor.
The loping, the slouched, the upright, and the just right.
The smiling, the laughing, the sad, and the studious.
Colors and patterns.
The shirts (with their ties) or school names or favorite team logos.
Snatches of conversation.
The beautiful and all the in-betweens, and not quites, and almosts.
Cologne and aftershave.
Street noises; even the screech of the trains.
The hurried and the evenly paced.
The things omnipresent, but never seen.
The lightly dressed and the rightly dressed.
The blind, the sighted, and the bespectacled.
Skin: the yellow, the white, the caramel colored, the deep brown, the black, the sunburned.
Canes and metal walkers; the walkers walking with walkers.
The men holding hands, the women holding hands, the babies being held or pushed, the men and women holding hands, the parents holding hands with their children.
People making speed and men making time.
The warm and the cold, the hot and the cool.
The carefree, the careworn, the careless.
Hair styles, hair blowing, hair color, and the hairless.
The cigar smoke, the sewer steam, the cigarette smell.
The light and the dark and the blank expressions.
The faded, the fading but still fabulous.
The kids, the teens. The no-timers and the old-timers.
The frail, the fraught, the frowning, and the robust.
WELCOME TO THE WALKING SHOW! WELCOME TO THE FESTIVAL OF LIFE!
Here is an entertainment without an admission fee: a new show every day, every minute, every night. No reruns, no DVDs, no downloads — one time only and gone. This constellation of faces and bodies, of sun and clouds, of moving cars and trucks disappears as soon as you stop to think.
Don’t think or you’ll miss the array; miss the “hurrah” in the array.
The kaleidoscope is only there if you notice. The fragrances are only special if you don’t preoccupy yourself with all the junk in your head. All the people are only special if you make them so.
This pattern of sounds will never be repeated. A new symphony every second.
The pattern of light and shadow will never be seen again. No one, not even someone walking beside you will experience the spectacle exactly as you do. Your perception is unique.
The faces on the people will never be the same, not even tomorrow when they are a day older.
Get out of your mind ahead. Get out of your mind behind.
Live in the moment.
If you do, prepare to be dazzled. Cover the internal mirrors looking back at you to enjoy what is outside, not the tempest inside.
Don’t judge what you see, don’t reflect, just observe.
The top image is a 19th century Turkish street scene painted by Amedeo Preziosi. It was sourced from Wikimedia Commons.