Last week I wrote about how wonder both requires and creates space. (You can read it here.) I had found myself thinking, as the result of a road-trip, about how external space can trigger the process of creating internal space, but I also ended up with a bunch of questions:
- How can I create that internal space without going on a big road trip?
- What about people who can’t get away? Do they have to wait to light the Wonder Fire for something big like that?
- How can we maintain that sense of wonder once we have come home and the physical and mental walls close in and the distractions begin to fill up our minds?
For me, there is one answer and it is very simple: Notice.
- Notice the things and people around me.
- Notice the way the light is highlighting the hills behind me – I never realized there were two layers of ridges before.
- Notice the little bird with a bum leg.
- Notice the laugh-lines around the eyes of a local shopkeeper.
- Notice how the oak tree that was bare of leaves a few days ago is now covered with a haze of new green leaves.
- Notice the paw prints that some local cat has left all over my car.
Simple and easy are not the same
I admit that simple is not the same as easy.
When my mind is busy thinking about all of the other stuff of life, stuff like the conversation I had with my sister, the maintenance I need to do on the car, the bills I need to pay, the projects I am working on, the things I should have said… When I am living in my head with all of that swirling around, all of that distracts me and takes up the space in my head. And it can be difficult to take a step back.
Create space for wonder
But if I can consciously quiet that chatter in my mind, I can create space to notice things. I can create space for wonder.
Mental calluses and protective clothing
In fact, when my mind is cluttered with busy thoughts, it is almost as if all of that stuff moving around in my head creates calluses on my mind – just like using a certain garden spade creates calluses on my hands or wearing certain shoes creates calluses on my feet.
Calluses aren’t necessarily a bad thing – calluses protect us from pain. The calluses on my fingertips keep my fingers from hurting when I play the guitar, and when I’m not distracted by that pain I can focus on the music.
We also create artificial calluses to protect us: I wear garden gloves to protect me from blisters and cuts and bites and from dirt buried deep beneath my fingernails, and I wear shoes to protect my feet from sharp rocks, glass and hot pavement.
Calluses protect me from pain, but they also keep me from noticing the way certain fabrics feel in my hands, or from noticing the feeling of the grass beneath my feet.
There are things we can do to remove our calluses and take off our protective clothing so that we can experience what is around us. Sometimes it is as simple as deciding to do it and reminding myself, especially when I notice those busy thoughts flying around my head. (Ah-hah! – I have to notice those thoughts as the first step to quieting them and making space to notice the world around me.)
I can create space for wonder by deciding to do it.
I can create space for wonder by paying attention to the world around me.
I can create space for wonder by taking off my mental shoes and work gloves so that I can feel the grit under my feet that the cats have tracked across the room from the litter box, feel the prickly welcome mat on my front porch, feel the soil as I pat it in around this plant, feel the way this quarter is grimy and a little sticky compared to that one that is shiny and new.
Drive home using a different route.
Say hello to the check-out clerk and really look at his or her face.
Sit in a different seat on the train.
It will create space for wonder.
Why is this important?
Because it is fun.
Because it is wonderful.
Because when I create space for wonder, new ideas show up. (And if I don’t write them down or say them out loud to someone I forget them, so I keep pads of sticky notes all over my house and a notebook in my bag.)
Greater minds than mine have been writing and talking about ideas like this, such as Mindfulness, for hundreds – even thousands – of years. But for each person an idea can be new, and each experience can be new.
Take off your mental shoes. Give yourself permission to be an emotional tenderfoot.
Notice, and create space for wonder. We can go together.
“I sha’n’t be gone long. – You come too.” –Robert Frost, “The Pasture”
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Last Thursday I was thrilled to publish the first guest post in a series on Curiosity. The first was by Claire Tompkins, and there is another one coming this Thursday, by Susan Daffron, so stay tuned!