Lighting a lamp and an incense stick at dusk is a ritual practised in many Indian households. Pune is no exception. As I walked along the garden track in yesterday’s dimming light, a strong fragrance of Nag Champa wafted my way. More used to paying attention to the earthy smell of the ground and leaves, I was surprised by the incense. My attention turned to the houses alongside the track and I saw the shadow of a lamp fall on the window. I smiling wondered how many people were doing something similar at this very moment.
Just for the fun of it, I decided to look out for such sweet scents for the remaining duration of my walk. For well over twenty minutes after this point, and not only through the garden track, but out across main roads, all the way home, I became aware of different incenses. I received this gift for all but about fifty meters (by an abandoned ground). Now this is not as incredible as it sounds. There are many apartments along the way and the bouquet of a strong agarbatti can extend for some distance. So by the time one fades away, another one from the next house is making itself more noticeable. This probably happens every single day. But today – I was looking out for it.
This exercise in selective attention reminded me of another time when I had selectively switched off my attention from an odour. Traveling on a long distance bus, the cleaner was seated across the aisle. Let us just say that his lack of a bath for many days made itself evident in the closed, air-conditioned bus. That day, I did a single round of EFT to remind myself that the senses are constantly receiving information and we selectively pay attention to only a tiny fraction of it. Hence, I could easily choose to ignore this sensory information as well. I completed my five hour journey in comfort.
However, most of the time, we are operating from unawareness. We get locked into habitual ways of perceiving things and tend to neglect information that is contradictory to our belief systems. (I elaborated on this in “What’s Good and New?”)
What new possibilities would open up for us if we were to adopt a more conscious way from hereon? I often give this analogy to my clients – trapped emotions, cellular memories and limiting beliefs lock us into habitual ways of seeing the situation. We consequently drive ourselves into ‘panic rooms’ and are virtually blind to other options. When we clear these ‘clouding blindfolds’ and adopt a more receptive perspective, suddenly where we saw only one shut door, we begin to see other unexplored ones. We see that we may actually be able to free ourselves from this ‘trapped’ position. For once we start seeing that other alternatives exist – that in itself empowers us to address our existing entrapment in a radically new way.
Access Consciousness pose some useful questions that help us to start seeing differently. One of the most simple and useful ones is:
“What else is possible?”
How we direct our attention – with or without awareness, openness and choice – can make all the difference. The next time you feel trapped by a situation, try asking yourself the above question. If you have been brought here, a way out surely exists. Perhaps this approach will help you find that way forward.
Otherwise, in a lighter vein, our own distracted ways may continue to beguile us as easily as the ‘best pickpocket in the world’ does in this video:
Image Source: Flickr Robin Elaine (under Creative Commons)
7 thoughts on “Missing Something That’s Right Under Your Nose?”
Lovely post, well-written, and an important reminder about mindfulness and attention… you’ve got yourself a new regular reader. 🙂
Thank you and welcome to the blog 🙂
It is so interesting to me to think about all I think I catch and then to think about what is really realized vs what the potential for what is also actually going on to be missed. Very interesting to contemplate the ways we can make friends with our Frank and how to help him keep the eye on our many balls!
It is interesting isn’t it? I was looking for a visual that summarized how little of light, sound and emf our senses are actually able to perceive, but was unable to find it. And within this limited bandwidth, we notice even less. Kind of puts our certainty about things in perspective 🙂
Thanks for stopping by M, always nice to see your comment or like 🙂
Beautiful post! Thích Nhất Hạnh too emphasizes on awareness and mindfulness “In mindfulness one is not only restful and happy, but alert and awake. Meditation is not evasion ….”!
Thank you and cheers 🙂
Thank you Dilip 🙂