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With the advent of cellphone cameras our sight has improved.  We snap away anytime and anywhere and often end up with a decent image.  Using these “cameras” translates to increased focus on what we’re seeing. This tendency can be a lovely centering exercise, bringing us to a moment at hand.

Of course, taking tons of photos can be overdone too. Who isn’t weary of inane photo posts? Images sit in our photo libraries rarely seen again, sorting and deleting too onerous a task.

Still, we enrich our lives when we observe what’s around us, when we pay attention to what calls to us: the unique, the different, the beautiful, the morose, present wherever we are. Observing is a form of mindfulness, intentionally aware of the surroundings concurrent with our breath.

Author of The Miracle of Mindfulnesness, Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us:

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth.  Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child _ our own two eyes.  All is a miracle.

Observation enriches our lives. As a traveler, we intentionally “see” a new place, stopping for seconds here and there, throughout a walking tour, just looking around. As tourists, we’re seeking out fresh perspective. Taking a photo doesn’t mean that we “click away” feverishly; rather, we indulge in time and languidly observe what’s interesting.

Even if unable to get out of town we can still extend the benefits of observation into our daily lives.  “Artful living comes through paying better attention,” says Julie Pointer Adams, author of Wabi Sabi Welcome. 

Adams asserts that Joie de Vivre as defined by the French encompasses simple pleasures, such as savoring a crepe, enjoying time at cafe’ or a romantic embrace on a river quay; moments that “inspire a sad-beautiful feeling…sensations that remind us that each moment is worth basking in because it won’t be with us forever”. (Wabi Sabi Welcome).

If we’re not paying attention and noticing, moments will pass us by. There’s always something interesting to see, even in the mundane and non-descript. Here are a some tips to strengthen our power of observation.

Breathe (and observe). Chade-Meng Tan, author of Search Inside Yourself, suggests,

Your breathe is like New York City for your attention- if your attention can make it here, it can make it anywhere.”…

So corny, but true. Routinely enjoy a few deep breaths and your eyes will naturally widen.

Slow down. Often when we’re booking travel at Globe Getaways, our clients want to see “Rome in a day”.  Although we strive to meet their desires, we also remind them that perhaps slowing down a little is a more enjoyable option…they’ll experience more.

Share your observations.  We all enjoy witnessing a sunset or sunrise.  When seeing something noteworthy (it doesn’t always have to be about observing beauty btw- anything that smacks your senses counts), let others in on the image and accompanying feelings.

Look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. Sometimes this can mean using all your senses and is especially relevant for everyday tasks.  Setting the table for dinner becomes a deliberate act of lining up the silverware just right, feeling its weight, adding plates and glassware in a particular order, enhancing the table with small additions such as salt and pepper shakers, smelling the food while it’s cooking, anticipating time together with others at the table…extraordinary, really.

As we enter Spring, wishing you light and aliveness through sight.


“Beauty is the harvest of presence, the evanescent moment of seeing (or hearing) on the outside what already lives far inside us: the eyes, the ears or the imagination suddenly becomes a bridge between the here and the there, between then and now, between the inside and the outside; beauty is the conversation between what we think is happening outside in the world and what is just about to occur far inside us.” – David Whyte


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