Watch the butterfly balance on a solitary stem of the astilbe planted just inches from where you sit. Notice the way the light illuminates the shiny blue dragonfly perched restfully on the wire of string lights suspended above your deck. Look at the way the arching branches of the butterfly bush cast a gently swaying shadow on the wall of your family room. Watch your daughter’s face while she talks and notice the tiny indicators that speak about how she feels and what she is really thinking about. Live in the present and see what is right in front of you instead of living out of the limbic system and subconscious memory while letting what is right in front of you slip past unnoticed.
Your eyes scan everything, but most of what your eyes scan you never actually see, because it never reaches conscious awareness. This is adaptive. We would be hopelessly impaired, paralyzed with information overload if we had to pay attention to everything that the eyes took in, and the most vital information would be lost amidst the clutter. The brain screens the input and determines what is important enough to bring to conscious awareness.
You can train your brain to bring to consciousness more of what your eyes see from the casual scan of your surroundings. This is important, because how much you really see, your ability to truly notice what is happening all around you, influences how well you feel. In turn, how well you feel influences how much you are then able to see. Mood heavily influences perception and perception heavily influences mood. It’s a circular relationship and you have to start someplace, so you might as well start with increasing what you notice.
The more mindful and present you are the better you feel. The better you feel the more you see, and the more you see, the better you will feel. This is because our subconscious alarm reaction (fear and anxiety generated in the right side limbic system) is influenced by how rapidly and suddenly the world is coming at us. When you notice more of your surroundings, examine things more closely, take the time to really look at what is around you, this brings you into the present and slows your perception of time. Time slows because your brain is processing more sensory information in a shorter time frame. As time slows and you are more attuned, the life coming at you appears to be proceeding at a more comfortable pace. The threat level lowers, the limbic system quiets (no longer reacting to every minor provocation) and you feel more settled.
This state of mindfulness also helps quiet your limbic system by engaging the frontal cortex. Focused attention and processing detail generates activity in the frontal cortex and the frontal cortex keeps things in proper perspective by continually factoring in current context. When you live your life in the present by increasing your attunement to what is going on around you, you are actively engaging the frontal cortex and this prevents you from slipping too far into the limbic circuit (a slight dissociative state as memories create alarm or a mood that changes your perception of what is really happening, and this leads to additional memory triggers that take you even further from reality as these memories are superimposed on the present).
The brain becomes more creative and makes an increased multitude of connections during a positive mood and this enables you to actually see more of what is right in front of you. Time slows because you are processing more in a shorter period of time. The picture develops greater detail and this promotes calm and well-being and feelings of trust and connectedness and this is why you feel better when you see more.
Our mood is greatly influenced by our ability to find fascination with what is right in front of us. If you train yourself to see more of what is right in front of you, your mood will elevate and you will experience calm.
It isn’t as easy as it sounds to find fascination, to truly see what or who is right in front of you. Life can sometimes be like an action-packed movie, full of fast-moving events, partial scenes requiring quick interpretation, but remember, a movie is nothing more than a series of still frames in rapid sequence. Freeze time, look around you and see the still frames, however insignificant they may seem. The more you make yourself see, the more and the deeper you will feel and the better you will feel.
Watch your daughter’s face while she talks and notice how she feels and what she is truly thinking about. Make it into “one of those moments”. There is more to see and it’s right in front of you.Take a good look around yourself and practice finding the fascination and appreciating the detail.