Stop and Smell the Roses
Wow, I haven’t thought about Mac Davis in decades! Do you remember him? I came upon a couple of his videos while looking into material for this blog, and it sure opened a floodgate of memories. Mac Davis was an American country pop singer-songwriter. He released Stop and Smell the Roses in 1974, and although it was a Top 10 hit, I remember him for Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me, which came out a couple years earlier. He passed away in 2020 at the age of 78.
Hmmmm. Now that I’ve come back from my trip down memory lane, let’s get back to this blog, Stop and Smell the Roses. (You should also check out Ringo Starr’s version of this song, released in 1981. No, I won’t go down that road!)
What do you think about when you go for a walk? Are you writing that report? Re-hashing a conversation? Planning the agenda for the upcoming team meeting? Oh, wait. That was LBR (life before retirement). Yes, LBR is when almost every waking thought is focused on work, with the occasional personal thought peeking through.
Now those thoughts are more likely to focus on other things, such as what to have for supper, how to improve your serve, where the next geocache can be found, etc. You know, the important things in life. The “brain on retirement” goes in a completely different direction and leaves open many opportunities to change direction. There are several good articles online about the health benefits of taking time to relax and smell the roses, but I’m going to tell you about a great book that will help you to do just that.
When interviewed for my last blog, Hobbies for Health and Happiness, local photographer Joan Nelson said something that really got me thinking. She said, “As a working person, I walked outside every day, but it was always just about the walk. Now I take more time to enjoy a leaf, a flower, or a landscape.”
And really, that is what life should be about. The days of autopilot are over (I can’t tell you how many times I left the house in the morning and ended up in the parking lot with no idea how I got there). It is time to really pay attention to our surroundings and to appreciate the beauty of our environment.
That’s not to say there is beauty in everything. I don’t subscribe to that. But, if you look hard enough, you can find something new or something interesting. For example, when the seasons change, which is daily here in Saskatchewan, you can always find something different. It may be a flower, a tree, or yard decorations. It may be new school zone speeds. That 7-7-7 really takes some mindfulness!
If being mindful when you are out and about seems like a daunting task, have a look at the book How To Be An Explorer of the World by Keri Smith, published by Penguin Group in 2008. This book, which by the way has a really cool layout with multiple images, fonts, and design schemes, is an interactive guide for exploring everyday life. It’s all about documenting your world and paying attention to things you normally ignore. There are suggestions on how to take notes, collect things, document finds, notice patterns, and focus on one thing at a time. It is whimsical. It is genius. Besides, Keri is Canadian!
For example, Exploration #41 is called Found Faces. This activity is simple: watch for naturally occurring faces you may find on your travels. Look for them in nature (trees have many faces embedded in their bark), clouds, plumbing parts, building fixtures, etc. You will be surprised at how many faces you will see, and you will, I guarantee, start looking for them without thinking about it. There is a tree stump in the front yard of a house I pass by regularly, and I swear it has a face on it. Every time I pass by, it makes me smile and I wonder if I am the only one who sees that face, or if the house owner is aware of it. Maybe I should stop and tell them someday. Well, maybe not. Not everyone shares my imagination!
Another fun activity is Exploration #26, Becoming Leonard Cohen. In this activity, all you need to do is sketch or document things that you use in your daily routine. It could be a coffee cup, cell phone, toothbrush, fork, vehicle, vitamin. . . or whatever you use every day. Look at that object closely. Don’t worry about whether you can make an accurate sketch. Really, no one is going to see it except you. As Leonard Cohen once said, “I have always loved things, just things in the world. I love trying to find the shape of things.”
It’s all about being mindful. Mindfulness allows us to be fully present in that moment. When we “quiet” ourselves, we have a natural ability to see things and make connections that we have not experienced before when our minds were going in a hundred different directions. And it’s easy. But how often do you actually practice mindfulness? Do you think you don’t have time?
“Who tells oneself: “I don’t have any time” when all you’ve got is time, all you’ve got is this moment,” Jon Kabat Zinn said during an interview with Oprah. So true. Think about that. We are the masters of our reality. Sure, we can’t change a lot of what happens to us, but we can sure change how we react to those things. And that is what makes it real. But to do that, we must be mindful and aware of what is happening at that moment. Hopefully, being mindful will eliminate those “I wish I would have handled that differently” moments! It’s very easy to forget to be mindful and let our minds wander, sometimes to places they really shouldn’t be.
I just came across another book which looks like it may be a good tool in our efforts to be mindful and appreciative of our surroundings. Explore Every Day: 365 Daily Prompts to Refresh Your Life by Lonely Planet. According to Goodreads, this book is about exploring your world without leaving your neighbourhood and includes prompts such as admiring street art as if it were in a gallery, really feeling the weather (they’ve obviously never experienced Saskatchewan in January) and learning about a constellation visible in your corner of the world.
I like the thought of learning about a constellation. The night sky is so rich in possibilities, and it amazes me how you can see the same things in my backyard as you would see thousands of miles away, albeit at a slightly different angle. It also amazes me how the moon can be suspended in space. I’m going to watch the movie Nope tonight, so my romantic notions of the night sky and space may soon change. Last night, we were sitting in front of the backyard fire pit, chatting, checking our phones, you know how it goes, and suddenly, I looked up and wow! The Northern Lights were amazing! I hadn’t seen them for a few years, and if I hadn’t looked up at that moment, I would have missed them. That’s a valuable lesson to be mindful and pay attention to your surroundings.
So, next time you are out on your daily walk, bike ride, run, shopping trip, whatever, take a minute to check in with yourself. Take a good hard look around you and really focus on your surroundings. To make it even more fun, check out How to Be An Explorer of the World. Watch for the face in the tree. Smell the roses. Or the daisies, or whatever flowers you can find!
Interesting Reads and Things