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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Walk like a scientist -- with mindfulness

In this blog post from NPR, Adam Frank recommends using scientific methods to get in touch with the present moment.

Like meditators, scientists practice noticing, Frank says. "This is where it begins, with simple act of catching seeing the smallest detail as an opening to a wider world of wonder and awe," he says. Noticing can overcome our habit of walking around lost in thought, not seeing where we are "by binding us to experience in ways that are thrilling, even in their ordinariness."

And, he says, you don't need expensive microscopes or a particle accelerator in your basement to practice noticing. (You knew that, didn't you, since you're reading a meditation blog.) Frank recommends you take a walk in the woods and gives helpful directions:


How many trees are there on the sides of a steep hill compared with its crest? How many leaves are there on the stalks of the blue flowers compared to the yellow ones? How many different kinds of birdsong do you hear when you stop and listen, (by the way, this requires really stopping and really listening, which is awesome). Counting things forces you to pay attention to subtleties in the landscape, the plants, the critters.
Other things scientists love: shapes, colors, patterns. Do the rocks at the stream's edge look different from the ones near the trail? Do the big cattails have the same color as the small ones? Get your naturalist on and bring a notebook. Pretend you are or John Muir. Jot down your findings, make little drawings and always, always ask your yourself those basic questions: why, how, when?
You don't need the answers. As the poet Rilke once said, "Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language." Questions raise our pulse and sharpen our delight.