It’s how we get through life. If we didn’t assume people would behave a certain way or that the world wouldfollow physical laws or that our cars would work the same way, we would never get through the day. We would spend all our time experimenting—figuring out how things worked and how they responded to our interaction.
On the other hand, our assumptions about how things work can impede our ability to discover new things. Our need to see patterns can lead to a habit of seeing them where they may not exist. Patterns can be very helpful, but we should avoid assuming a pattern or some other condition if the potential for learning something new or different exists. Things aren’t always as they seem.
We’re being advised to stay away from everyone on the planet—everyone except those we live with. We have to spend time with them. We have to spend literally all of our time with them. How can we do this without driving each other nuts?
Living in close quarters in stressful situations is especially challenging. Many of us are faced with new and unfamiliar challenges, such as homeschooling children, working remotely, or making less money. While facing these challenges we are also deprived of many of the outlets for pressure that we have always been able to count on in the past—spending time with friends, going out on the town, or spending the afternoon at a ball game. Spending all of our time in what amounts to a bunker means figuring out how to get along. It means being extremely specific and intentional about what bothers us and how to resolve those irritations without impacting those around us. It means getting to know ourselves in this new reality.
Although technology has resulted in a decrease in the amount of communication that happens in person, it is still a critical aspect of how we interact. When something is important or sensitive, we handle it face to face.
But how many of us are skillful in the art of conversation—not just small talk, but meaningful conversation that transcends the narratives in our head and the need to steer the conversation to our benefit?
For many of us, unless a scent is extremely strong, extremely pleasant, or extremely unpleasant, we don’t pay much attention to it. Even with our limited sense of smell (compared to many animals), there is a wide range of smells in the world that we can enjoy, that can provide information, and that can become another universe for us to explore.
There are many variants out there of the Five Senses Mindfulness exercise, in which the participant focuses on each of their five senses in turn. It’s a great exercise in mindfulness and a good starting point for being more mindful of our senses, but if we can expand this idea into our regular moment-to-moment mindfulness, it will result in whole new worlds opening up to us.
When I get home from a social gathering, I am often asked a series of very specific questions. What decorations did they have? What was Tina wearing? What kind of cake did they have? My answer is usually, “I dunno…”.
It’s not that I don’t notice things; I just notice different things.
When you leave a place, how much do you remember about it? If someone asked you the color of the wall in your friend’s living room, would you know? Do you notice what people are wearing?