Mindfulness – Paying Attention Exercise

Next time you are in a Quiet Garden, if some plant or tree or section of the garden catches your attention, try this short practice. Either stand or sit and see if you can really pay attention to this object.

First, simply see the shapes, the patterns, the colours and the shades. Notice how quickly the mind starts to think about other things like its biology, whether I like it or not and the associations it has for me, and simply keep coming back to exploring shapes, colours and patterns. Then look harder – is there anything more to see which you hadn’t noticed up to now? See if you can keep looking beyond the boredom point and then keep looking some more. See if it is possible to allow yourself to remain curious as you gaze with respectful awe. Then you could bring other senses to bear: smell, touch and possibly, if you know what you are doing, taste.

Then there is one more thing to notice about nature here: you. What thoughts, feelings or even body sensations do you notice in your own self in response to this experience of noticing this object? Again, no need to judge or analyse – just notice what is here in nature – in you. Perhaps stay here exploring this one object for just a tiny bit longer than feels comfortable. And then walk on.

No need to come to any conclusions or write anything down. What you have done, though, is take a tiny step towards re-uniting two parts of God’s creation; the way that it was in Eden before humans decided that it was all there just for them – and began the tragic separation of humanity and the rest of nature.

Revd Tim Stead, Anglican priest, accredited mindfulness teacher, author of Mindfulness and Christian Spirituality