This week for mindfulness I am asking my participants to look at a leaf as if they have never seen it before. The instructions include observing the leaf carefully, looking closely at its color, breathing in its earthy leaf-smell, and paying attention to its texture.
The leaves of autumn come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some have bright colors and some have unusual patterns. Some have holes, rips, or tears. Some have started to turn brown and some have black spots on them. Some are wet and slimy and others are brittle and crunchy. Some are visually appealing and some are less appealing to look at.
Mindfulness is about being able to observe what is in front of us, without dismissing or evaluating, without throwing away or ignoring, and without inhibiting or suppressing. Sometimes what we observe is not pleasant. Sometimes we do not like what we observe, or we wish for things to be different. Sometimes we see what others are holding, or observing, or turning over in their palm- and we wish that our leaves were as exciting or pretty.
When we look carefully at the details of an autumn leaf, we start to see things that we haven’t bothered to see. Perhaps we are fascinated by the tiny detail of texture. Perhaps we are struck by the brilliance in color. Perhaps a mottled pattern draws us. Perhaps we notice liking, or not liking, or irritation, or impatience. Perhaps we notice jealousy.
When we can see what is in front of us- reality as it is on its own terms- we can give it our full attention. When we can give it our attention, we can start to get our minds around it. We can go through the necessary- even if painful- steps of what it is going to take to move through it instead of around it. We stop avoiding. We may start to see things not seen before. We increase awareness. We have new information- even if it is clarity about our own emotions.
Look carefully this week at things you don’t want to see. See if you can notice, gently, with willingness and awareness, the things that are easier to ignore or avoid. Allow for this to be.