"Everyone chases after happiness,
not noticing that happiness is right at their heels."
-- Bertolt Brecht
Instead of New Year's Resolutions
The beginning of a new year calls for something fresh, experimental, fun. I gave up on New Year's resolutions years ago, when it became clear I couldn't sustain them past March 1. Some friends of mine name their years. One friend named 2016 Simplicity; another named it Acceptance. This seems worth trying -- a theme for the year. So I've named 2016 Noticing.
- A large flowerpot in my living room, which goes outside in summer, inside in winter, is dirty and unattractive.
- There are deep dog scratches on 2 of my inside doors. They come from a previous owner's dog, and have lived untouched for the 22 years I've been in this house.
- After I attended a gathering, a friend mentioned Judy was there. I didn't see her. I realized Judy is literally invisible to me.
- Last night I kept eating though I was full.
- I drove 30 miles home and didn't remember the route I'd taken.
- Working on a project, I failed to notice that I'd gotten really tired.
Some years ago, I had an experience of noticing that I had been holding on to an untrue story. The story was that my daughter Lisa was critical of me. She lives across the country, so when she invited me to meet her at a conference and share a room, I was thrilled, and vowed to carefully avoid being defensive when she inevitably got critical. To my amazement...and this was the noticing part...she wasn't critical at all. Not once. BUT I had to bite my tongue several times because I was about to say something critical to HER! Holding onto an old story had kept me blind to both myself and my daughter. Noticing matters!
Noticing, as the Bertolt Brecht quote says, is freeing. Happiness is right at our heels, and we can easily miss it. Noticing includes becoming aware of things inside and outside of us: what we see, feel, say, experience. Noticing can help us see who we really are. It can help us experience our lives 100%, with both feet in!
Here's a paradox. When we're feeling something uncomfortable, it gives us relief to notice it. We stop spending energy denying it or trumping up some story to explain or justify it. We acknowledge what is. Then, if we don't like it, we can change it. When I noticed my critical thoughts toward Lisa, I was freer to love her more fully. I didn't like what I saw in myself, but when I saw it, I could change it. Not just my behavior. I dropped the story I had been holding and my heart shifted.
- The warm sun on my left cheek as I walked on a very cold day...it switched to my right cheek when I turned the corner
- Love flowing through me in a big wave while playing with my granddaughters Ruthie and Fianna
- The ice on my window created a beautiful pattern this morning.
- A green smoothie I had for breakfast was so good I nearly swooned.
- I noticed a very old woman struggling to put her groceries in her car. I was moved to help her.
- I was so relaxed during a visit with my granddaughter Ruthie, I noticed that relaxed person is who I want to be more often.
The Goal of Noticing
Noticing is not a goal. It's not about any outcome. It's just a theme for the year. It is about being on a journey, in the experience of life in as many moments as possible. And sometimes there is learning. And then we have a choice...to keep things as we notice they are, or change them. To keep ourselves as we are or change. What freedom!
I encourage you to choose a theme for 2016.
Even if "noticing" is not your choice, just to celebrate the new year, try these noticing tips for a week and let me know what you notice that surprises you.
- When you wake up in the morning, notice how you feel, what your energy level is, what you look forward to.
- Every time you take a drink of water, NOTICE: your surroundings, the taste of the water, the temperature of the air, your thoughts, the condition of your heart, your mood.
- When you're interacting with anyone in your life, notice what you are inviting by your words, mood, body language.