As human beings, we can miss so much. It is perfectly possible for us to bounce about our days with vast chunks of potential experience simply passing us by, untapped, unused and ultimately wasted.
The fact that we perpetually take things for granted, the fact that we constantly: form and work from internal generalisations, is something that’s deeply rooted in our nature. It’s a necessary faculty. And it’s totally useful…
Some of the time.
But here’s the danger:
When left unchecked this mechanism can, all too easily, become our default and habitual way of interacting with the world. When this happens we begin to wander around aimlessly, steered purely by desire and reaction, becoming ever-more trapped and enmeshed in habitual ruts of thought and behaviour.
But you want some Good News?
It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s a choice, and it’s ours to make. Armed with just a few key insights, you can take that: rainy-day-grey unseeing blind ragged flip flop of a life; set in on fire, chock-jam it full of adrenalised colour, and watch it explode into breathtaking ribbons of light.
Want to know what these insights are?
OK. Well, just because it’s you, I’ll tell. But let’s keep it quiet. I mean, we wouldn’t want everyone to know this stuff, right?…
If human beings didn’t have the faculty to take things for granted it would be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to get anything done at all. If, for example, we questioned with every step if the floor would bear our weight or drop us without reason into the dark depths of a flaming and fiery abyss, it would take us an absolute age to get from somewhere to anywhere else (if in fact, we were able to set out at all).
Knowing roughly how stuff works, making generalisations about it, and using those generalisations to steer us in the world saves us precious time and frees up cognitive RAM, enabling us to concentrate on other, higher level activities.
But, unless we exercise an intelligent degree of awareness and caution, it is all too easy to: repeatedly slip-slide melt into the comfortable womb of the familiar, hit the autopilot switch and let our lives unfurl on automatic pilot – never truly seeing, inhabiting, or experiencing the ever living moment.
Why is it so easy for this to happen? Well, in some ways this approach feels good to us. We like to feel safe, we enjoy certainty, and the security of ‘the familiar’ is an ever present siren song. Don’t get me wrong here, letting some things in your life drift on autopilot some of the time can be ultra helpful whilst you’re getting other things done. But when you allow this to become your habitual way of being, when you find yourself unconsciously and repeatedly choosing to become inured to the greater part of your moment-to-moment experience, then you are in a dangerous place indeed. This is an error that will, with absolute certainty and great appetite, gnaw and devour the very flesh of your life right down to the bone if not curtailed.
It’s not all doom and gloom tho. As luck would have it, there’s an ultra-shiny flipside to this whole deal. Ready?
Whilst it is true that: we can miss out on much in our environment and our experience, it is also true that: when you actually begin looking into it, even in a cursory way, almost every single thing in life can be cognitively unpacked, reveal previously hidden depths. Sometimes, this process will reveal massive veins of untapped wealth hidden, just out of sight, beneath the rolling tundra of day-to-day mundanity. Even the smallest, most seemingly inconsequential thing can actually contain wonders, of a great and epic magnitude.
What do I mean by that? Well…
As I write this I have, on my desk beside me, a cup of coffee. As small, simple and commonplace thing as you will ever find. But the beans that my coffee was made from were grown, by a bunch of people I have never met on the other side of the world. Someone labored for over a year to plant, and then daily water, the bush they grew on. Someone picked the cherries by hand, someone dried them, someone hulled them, someone roasted them, and then someone packaged them for me. They were flown thru the sky, bought to my door from half a world away in precision metal vehicles that collectively cost millions of dollars. The water that the beans are brewed in has been filtered by a system (which I did not make), which was built, and is maintained by an army of people whom I will likely never meet. This clean, instantly drinkable water is boiled at the touch of a button in a contraption that I could not make myself, using a force which, to be honest, may as well be magic to me.
So in one sense, it is correct to say that my morning cup of coffee is one of the simplest and easiest to overlook things in my daily life. But, when I consider it in this new way, I am made aware of the fact that: in days gone by, the most powerful of the Pharoahs, Kings, Rulers and Khans could not, even with the full measure of their wealth and power, have enjoyed something so exquisite.
And for the most part I just take it for granted.
And here, as the bard would say, is the rub. When I stop to consider it in this way, unpacking it in order to perceive it with a greater degree of clarity, all at once the taste becomes more vivid. Suddenly, when I sip the liquid I am more aware of it’s value, I do so more attentively and consequently find every sharp, bitter mouthful much more enjoyable. What has changed? It is exactly the same experience as before with exactly the same components. But because I’ve taken a little time to consider, unpack, and appreciate it, my depth of experience has gone from small screen black and white silent movie, to an explosion of 3D widescreen colour in full-scale epic Dolby surround sound.
You can do this with pretty much anything. Everywhere you look, there will be something that, if you think about it deeply enough, contains the power to blow the doors of your mind off their hinges with wave after wave of proto-orgasmic gratitude. This way of: learning to truly see and appreciate what is already around you can work some serious bolts of wonder thru the day-to-day fabric of your life.
Sounds pretty good right? But how can we apply this so it sticks? How do we make sure we remember? How do we integrate the idea so that it shows up in our lives on a more consistent basis?
Those are some Good Questions.
There is, in fact, one primary thing you can do right now that will make pretty much everything in your life: taste sweeter, feel better and go way way deeper. Something that will help you see old tired things in a new, hi-contrast light, and that will integrate the practice of greater appreciation into your experience effortlessly. Want to know what it is?
OK then, I’ll tell you… in Part 2 of this post. ;-)
I wish you well.
My name is James Radcliffe and I am a 100% audience supported independent artist. If you like what I do (and can afford it) then please consider buying some of my music. Each purchase really makes a big difference to me and 10% of every sale goes to a charity which: houses, feeds, clothes, and educates orphaned children in Nepal.
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