English author, poet, and dramatist Eden Phillpotts wrote, “The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.” (The quote is often attributed to William Butler Yeats, but scholars say it actually comes from Phillpotts.)
When I read that quote, I thought about my friend and Transformational Presence colleague Rebecca Johns. When Rebecca and I speak, we tend to dive right into big topics pretty quickly. And often our deep dive begins with her question, “So what are you noticing?”
Such a powerful question, in part because it presumes that you are noticing!
Yet the fact is that, too often, we aren’t. Just as the fish doesn’t realize that it is swimming in water, we can get so used to our surroundings and the people in our lives that we stop noticing them. If we aren’t careful, it’s easy to become so focused on accomplishing a task or finishing a project that we miss what is actually happening all around us. Without realizing it, we become somewhat “mindless” in our day-to-day living.
For this discussion, let’s define “mindless” as being so lost in your thoughts or your own world that you aren’t aware of what is happening around you. And let’s define “mindful” as being fully present and fully engaged with your surroundings and your current-moment activity. Imagine a spectrum line between “mindless” at one end and “mindful” at the other end. On that spectrum line, where do you live most of the time?
“Mindfulness” has become the “hot new thing” in the corporate world. In his recent TED talk, entrepreneur and humanitarian activist Dan Pallotta joked that mindfulness was all of a sudden becoming “a tool for improving productivity.” Mindfulness can, in fact, improve productivity, but that’s not its purpose! The purpose of mindfulness is to become fully present and fully engaged with where you are, with who is around you, and with what is happening in the moment. Furthermore, it’s not just about being present – it’s about the quality of your presence.
And it’s really about Rebecca’s question: What are you noticing? Not just on the surface, but also underneath. Not just the obvious, but what are the subtle shifts and turns that, if you pay attention, you realize are taking place right before your eyes?
Perhaps it’s a change in someone’s face, or a deeper feeling that was almost hidden behind her words, yet is revealed in the sound of her voice. Or maybe something has shifted in a relationship close to you, yet you’ve been too wrapped up in your own concerns to notice.
Perhaps a pattern is developing in how your team works together or how the team members are relating to a project, but no one has paused long enough to acknowledge that something is, in fact, shifting.
It could be that a tension has been building or a crisis has been brewing for a long time, but no one has been paying attention. Or maybe no one has wanted to acknowledge the truth of what is happening.
Perhaps someone in your family or in your company has done something extraordinary—completed a huge project or accomplished something that, for them, was an enormous step—yet no one has noticed because so much else has been going on.
There are messages everywhere. They come from the world around us and from deep within us. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the Three Intelligences as a part of our human energy technology—a tool for tapping into the messages within us. In early April, I wrote about Whole-Mind Thinking and Whole-Being Awareness as skills for noticing what is happening on different levels around us. We say, “The body knows,” or “The body doesn’t lie.” Yet we have to pay attention in order to notice the messages.
Life is giving us signals all the time. When we pay attention and notice the subtle shifts and the almost hidden details, we can be proactive in taking care of whatever is needed. The more we read the signals and respond with clear intention, creativity, innovation, and inspired action, the less we need to experience crisis.
In fact, what if, most of the time, things only reach a crisis state because we haven’t noticed the more subtle messages that have been trying to get our attention? What if paying attention was the most proactive thing you could do to create an extraordinary life or company?
Rebecca offers a simple mantra for living mindfully: Be present, be receptive, be responsive.
Pay attention and notice the details—the textures, the energy ebbs and flows, the patterns, and the subtle shifts in how things are unfolding. It’s all about awareness. Be curious. Life can be a constant “dialogue” with everything around you and within you all the time. All it takes is sharpening our senses.
So how about you? What are you noticing right now? What’s getting your attention? What does it want you to know? How is it asking you to engage? What new information, opportunity, or invitation is here for you right now?
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