…when I in awesome wonder, consider all the works Thy hands have made
Give yourself a test. Pause for a moment and answer these simple questions: What type of cloud was in the sky the last time you were out? Which way was the wind blowing? How many kinds of wild flowers can be seen from your front door? How many different birds have you heard today? Where is the nearest bird’s nest, spider’s web or bee hive? If your awareness is as sharp as it could be, you’ll have no trouble answering these questions, even in the city. Relearning the art of seeing the world around us is quite simple, although it takes practice and requires breaking some bad habits. And relearn is the correct word. Most of us observed much more as children than we do as adults.
A child’s day is filled with fascination, newness and wonder. The desire to explore, to have an adventure, gave us all a natural awareness. But distinctions that were sharp to us as children become blurred; we are numb to new stimulation, new ideas. We don’t see a loaf of bread as coming from a wheat field blown by the wind. The apples we buy seem to come from a supermarket rather than from a tree. I have seen thousands of pigeons in my lifetime, you probably have too. But was the last pigeon you saw as fascinating, as wonderful, as alive as the first one that caught your attention as a child?
The first step in awakening senses is to rediscover that wondering child, in ourselves - and to do so we need to stop anticipating what we are going to see and feel before it occurs. This blocks awareness.
A seasoned hiker once related: ‘One chilly night when I was hiking in the mountains with a group of students, I mentioned that we were going to cross a mountain stream, and the students began grumbling about how cold it would be. We reached the stream, and they reluctantly plodded ahead. They were almost knee-deep when they realized I had taken them into a hot spring. Later they all confessed they’d felt cold water at first.
Another block to awareness is the obsession many of us have with naming or labelling things. I’ve seen bird watchers who spot a bird, immediately look it up in field guides, see that it is, say, a ‘white-breasted crow’ and tick it off. They no longer pay attention to the bird and never learn what it was doing.
The pressures of ‘time’ and ‘destination’ are further blocks to awareness. I can’t count the number of field-walkers and hikers I’ve encountered who were heading for a distant campground with just enough time to get there before dark. It seldom seems to occur to them to allow time to wander a bit, to take a moment to see what’s around them.
Most of us have visually stuffed our surroundings into niches. The result is automatic vision, which strangles awareness and limits us to seeing only a fraction of what there is to be seen. To test your family’s automatic vision, place an unfamiliar object in one part of the lounge or living room where your family normally doesn’t look - between a couch and a bookcase, perhaps. Even though the object is in plain view, you can bet nobody will notice it. For full awareness we must rebel against what our subconscious tells us is the ‘normal’ way to see what is before us.
Nature seems to unfold to people who watch and wait. Several years ago I had an argument with a friend about the words “nature awareness.” Frustrated because I couldn't explain what they meant to me, I took a long walk. A strong wind was brewing as I walked out to the end of a jetty. The rain began to fall hard. As the waves crashed around me, I had an awareness of nature so complete that my senses screamed. The pounding waves vibrated my very bones. Tasting the salt spray, my flesh welcoming the hard wind, I felt myself growing stronger with every surge of the tide.
Next time you take a walk, no matter where it is, open up and dive in. Take in all the sights, sounds and sensations. Wander in this frame of mind and you will open a new dimension to your life.
…Thy power throughout the Universe displayed.