In 1956, golfer Walter Hagen said, ‘You’re only here for a short visit. Don't hurry. Don't worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.’ The modern world is fast-paced, bustling, and many times relentless in its ways. Everything must be quick, convenient, otherwise it ‘takes too long’, or ‘no one has time for that’. But underneath the illusion that a malevolent hand is turning those of the clock, that the world is simply too busy to possibly ever consider stopping, is the truth: stopping to smell the flowers along the way may be one of the most healing things you ever choose for yourself.
Why Should I ‘Take Notice’?
Mindfulness is described as a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment. By calmly acknowledging and accepting any thoughts and feelings that may be flitting through your mind, without judgement. An essential part of a meditative practice, it can help to bring a sense of peace in a ceaseless world. You can practice mindfulness outside of your body too, by observing the world around you with curiosity. The benefits of taking notice are innumerable — here are five key benefits:
1. Mindfulness can help improve your mental wellbeing by allowing you to accept your own thoughts and feelings, rather than battling against them. Try not to label feelings as good or bad; let yourself exist in the moment as you are.
2. By not judging yourself, you are less likely to judge the world around you; mindfulness can help to develop a kind and curious attitude, as well as patience and understanding.
3. Time may seem to slow down during practice.
4. You may find you start to sleep better.
5. Stress and anxiety levels may lower.
How Can I ‘Take Notice’?
How you choose to ‘take notice’ in life is completely up to you. Some people practice mindfulness through creating art, playing music, reading or movement. If you, like Walter Hagen, wish to practice mindfulness through observing the natural world, here are ten ways to try:
1. Smell the flowers! Try not to label the smell as good or bad, rather: is it sweet? Strong? Subtle? What colour are the flower petals? Are there any bees nearby, collecting nectar?
2. Walk on the grass with bare feet, and feel the earth between your toes.
3. After applying SPF, lie in the sun and close your eyes — how does the warmth feel on your skin?
4. Stroll down a winding woodland path: can you name the birds as they sing?
5. Set a hammock up between two strong trees — thank them for supporting you as you look up at the branches above, swaying in the breeze. How old do you think they are? What might great events of history might they have lived through?
6. Where it is safe and legal, try river swimming. Let the cool water wash over you, noticing how it beads on your skin. Watch the dappled light dance on the surface. You might see a heron, or a kingfisher dive for dinner in a flash of blue and copper.
7. Sketch a plant, noticing the veins in the leaves. Write an ode to your favourite animal.
8. Forage for wild blackberries, and revel in not knowing whether they will be tart or sweet.
9. For those who live in the countryside, take a walk at dusk to a nearby field and watch for a ghostly barn owl; notice how it silently glides through the air.
10. Look to the night sky: how big is the moon tonight? Does it wax or wane? Can you recognise any constellations as the ancient stars burn above you?
Social media, academic study and personal events can make life feel like a whirlwind threatening to envelop you. Take notice of the natural world, and as you lean in to smell the flowers, listen closely: you might hear them whisper, “You have time.”