Mantra Essay: Taking Notice

In the first month of your journey, you’re tasked with taking notice of the things around you. More specifically, the idea is to take notice of things that bring joy!

When we founded this program, each of us partners had recently gone through our own journeys of discovery for similar reasons. Mostly, we were feeling a little stuck in the rut of our daily lives and careers, and couldn’t help but feel like there was more to life than the cycle of working for income in the pursuit of furthering other people’s agendas.

It’s not that we resented our careers. Quite the contrary, we were grateful at the opportunities that we had been given and proud of our work histories. But we kept coming back to the idea that we each wanted to live out our lives with a purpose that was meaningful to ourselves. 

But how do you start? 

Well, with taking notice, of course! All around at all times, the world is brimming with possibility. We just have to train our minds and our bodies to slow down and allow that information to seep into our consciousness. As we open our eyes and really see the world around us, we also kickstart our brains into thinking about different ways to engage with that world. Are there human needs that aren’t being met? Are there new innovative companies trying to change the world for the better? Are there opportunities within your own career path that it hadn’t occurred to you to pursue before? Is your community trying to better itself in ways that get you excited?

As you process what you’re seeing, you’ll also start to see ways in which your own talents and interests intersect with those opportunities. For me, when I finally slowed down and looked, I saw that many people around me – most people, honestly – were just going through the motions of life and work, vaguely hopeful for a brighter future, but untrained in how to actually make that future a reality. The more I looked I kept noticing this same condition.

Over time as I processed through it, I realized that I could do something here. I’m fascinated by people and their stories, I experience real satisfaction from mentoring others, and I’m hardwired for slow, patient progress. I’m a turtle, not a hare. Also, I really enjoy writing, so the idea for what would become Bodhi Band started to bubble up in my head as it coincidentally arose within my co-founders minds, too.

Meanwhile, my practice of taking notice revealed an abundance of beauty around me. Nature, for sure, but also incredible people and inspiring works of art and breathtaking human progress. It’s not that I hadn’t seen it before, but I’d never paid close enough attention to actually appreciate it. I was busy. In my mind, important people are busy and important people don’t spend their time looking at flowers or whatever. So it was a pleasant surprise to discover that, not only was I surrounded by beauty when I took the time to look, but that same beauty actually gave me more purpose and more conviction to take an active role in directing my future.

Okay, but how does this apply to you? 

You are capable of attaining similar insights about your own life through the repetitive practice of taking notice. Of course, your insights will be unique to you because you are, yourself, unique. All of your life experiences, all of your personal interests and passions, the patterns of your daily routines, your family and friends, the way you think about the world - these are all inputs into your special cocktail of perspective, and they will influence what you notice and what opportunities for change you arrive upon.

Start with a focus on searching for beauty and the other things will come. Beauty is how you define it, naturally, but also don’t overthink this step. Is there natural beauty nearby? Be deliberate about seeking it out and spending time amidst it. Even if you don’t conveniently live next door to a National Park, I’m willing to bet there are splashes of natural beauty within a reasonable distance.

Are you a fan of art? Of music? Try to approach these treasures with a newly opened heart and mind. Allow yourself to immerse in the medium, free from distraction. Even if you don’t consider yourself the journaling type, take a notebook with you to the art museum and let your felt emotions flow out onto the page. Close your eyes when listening to a new (or old favorite!) piece of music, and revel in the experience of just being there with the piece.

One perhaps unexpected place to take notice is your food. Are there particular dishes that always bring you joy? Why is that? The aromas, the tastes, the visual presentation - these all combine to create a sensation of warmth and happiness that can be difficult to put into words. Personally, I took notice of food as a thing-of-beauty, which had the unexpected result of me discovering a passion for cooking. That’s something I had never considered for myself before, but now I see it as a core component of my self-directed lifestyle. And I never would have gotten there if I hadn’t stopped to take notice.

If you see the potential in taking notice, and you really want to give it a try, take my advice. Remove distractions to the best of your ability. Be deliberate about this. Shut off the podcasts and mute your phone notifications. Better yet, put it in airplane mode. If possible, schedule specific time for notice-taking activities like walking or listening to music. You want to create bandwidth in your mind for it to receive inputs without interruptions. In that sense, taking notice is analogous to meditating.

As you build up this habit, you should start to experience a higher level of notice in all aspects of your life. You’ll be more attuned to the environment at work, and you’ll become better at really listening to people. Although the Bodhi Band course only has you focus on this for a month, the idea is that it should be a practice that follows you the rest of your life. 

What have you taken notice of so far? Was it a moment of beauty? Or a surprising opportunity? Your children at play? Or an interesting person? Let us know in the comments, send us an email directly, or share with the community by posting on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you!

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