One of my "other jobs" is parent lead of a supplemental science program at my daughters' school. I organize curriculum and wrangle parent volunteers to bring 5 two-hour hands-on science sessions to each classroom throughout the year. It's a fun and rewarding volunteer gig that is loved by students, parents and teachers.
A few weeks ago, I spent a morning working with some of the other parents to make training videos and gather materials for the different centers in our final unit. The theme is "Bird Songs" which is very apt for this time of year, when spring is springing, flowers are popping up, and birds are more active and talkative.
Later in the same day, I was out for a walk and I started noticing all the different bird songs. I was able to recognize some of the calls...the slow whistle of the chickadee and the melodic twittering of the little finches. I walked along, smiling and basking in the chorus around me.
Would I have noticed the birds if we hadn't just been creating the materials? Maybe. Would I have spent as much time listening and trying to decipher the different birds? Definitely not.
We are bombarded by stimuli at all times, more than our brain can process in any given moment, so our brain chooses what to notice...like a spotlight that only shines on one small part of a large room. What we don't realize is how much our thinking and patterns affect what our spotlight illuminates.
It's no secret that I am a horse person, so I notice horses every where we go. I notice if they look healthy, what breed they might be, how they are interacting, etc. My husband (not a horse person), will occasionally point out a field of horses, but usually just to joke by yelling, "Look...cows!!!"
My sister, who is a fire protection and safety engineer, notices sprinkler systems in buildings and notes where all the emergency exits are.
This idea has far reaching implications. If you harbor a negative mindset about yourself or the world, you will find plenty of evidence for that. If you think, "I'm clumsy," you will notice every time you trip or drop something, disregarding all the times you walked safely across the room or moved an object from A to B uneventfully. If you think, "People suck," you will interpret all of your interactions to prove that correct.
Likewise, if you are generally optimistic and good-spirited, you can have those feelings validated as well. You will take more notice of smiling faces and acts of kindness. If you think you are generally capable, you will be more likely to laugh it off when you trip over the curb.
If you don't believe me, try it. Start with something impersonal. Go on a walk and decide that you will turn your awareness to the flowers. My girls and I did this on the walk to school this morning and we saw dozens of new plants making their way above ground. Have fun and be creative. Pick a color and notice all the objects of that color. Sit on your porch and take note of how many different sounds you hear. Listen to a song and pay special attention to the drum beat or the instrument of your choice. Practice guiding your awareness so that you can start to apply the technique to the really important stuff, like your overall view of yourself, or people, or life's possibilities.
Once you've practiced on some easy stuff, take it to the next level. Choose a mantra and see what support you can find for it. Start simple: "Today is a good day" or "I see a lot of beauty in the world" or "I have a lot to be thankful for" or "I like where I live." Choose a mantra at the beginning of the day. Set an alarm at the top of the hour to remind you of your mantra. Repeat it often. At night, make a list of all the evidence you found throughout the day to support it. You will be AMAZED by what you notice!
You will also be amazed to realize what some of your default awareness-changing thoughts are...especially about yourself. Start to listen to your self talk and analyze how it affects your observations and interactions throughout the day. Are you generally kind to or hard on yourself? What thoughts do you validate by seeking out evidence? How is your spotlight helping you grow or limiting you?
One of the best things about running the science program is the learning and excitement that happens as we complete hands on activities with the students. Occasionally, a child will see me and stop me when I am at school to tell me something that relates to our latest unit. "I heard a crow outside my window today!" If more children stop and listen to the birds because of the science program, it makes me exceedingly happy. If one or two people reading this take some time to evaluate and improve their spotlight of awareness, then the work is well worth it. Change your thinking--change your awareness--change your life!