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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Exercise three: appreciating small things

Posted on Happy Minds!

The purpose of this exercise, is to train your ability to enjoy the beauty of small things. It may sound a bit strange to you, training something that you do a lot already.
Paying attention to small, but nonetheless beautiful things comes and goes naturally, because everybody has a natural appetite for enjoying life. However, if your mind is kept very busy with everyday’s problems and obligations, your brain may sometimes be too busy, and that sometimes leaves little room for some joy. Therefore, this exercise is in a way instructing your brain to pay more attention to details, to small things that do not require anything more than your attention in order to bring you some happiness.

You need a quiet, comfortable place to sit with sufficient lighting in order to see what you’re doing. Also, you need something that you really like. It can be a flower, a piece of jewellery, a piece of crystal, a model car or a small musical instrument. It really doesn't matter very much what it is, as long as it fits on the palm of your hand, without being too heavy for you to hold it for a while. The object that you use, is of no importance by itself! Try to enjoy it, without getting attached to it. In fact, after completing the exercise, give the object to somebody. If you find it hard not to expect anything in return, try giving it anonymously.

Before you start this exercise, you need to relax a little, so you will be able to focus. In order to relax: here’s a simple breathing exercise:

Sit on your chair in a comfortable position. Breath quietly through your nose. Try to fix your attention on your breathing. Fix your attention on feeling the air pass through your nostrils and on your chest expanding and falling back. Probably, all kinds of distracting ideas and thoughts will pop into your head. Just observe that. Do not fight it, just let it be. The only thing you’ll do, is bringing your focus back to your breathing every time you notice your mind has wandered again.
If you sit like this for 5-10 minutes, you may start to notice that your muscles relax and your stream of thoughts starts to slow.

When it’s enough for you, you’re ready to start!

While still sitting in a comfortable position, take the object that you have selected for this exercise, and keep it in the palm of your hand. Don’t squeeze it, hold it loosely on top of your palm. Gaze at the object you’re holding with your eyes half open. Again, thoughts will come into your head automatically. Do not get annoyed by that, just observe, and do not elaborate on your thoughts. For example, you may think: Oh, I will have to tell my brother later today that I am still angry about… Stop… you’re thinking. Just stop that thought and focus again on the object you’re holding. Keep looking at it. Just observe the object. Its colour, shape, texture, weight, temperature. If you need to, touch the object with the fingers of your other hand. Do this for at least 5 minutes, preferably 10. After it’s enough for you, start thinking about this object. What have you seen? What is it you like about this object? Why is it beautiful to you? Do you like its texture, colour, shape, weight, temperature? Be very specific, do this carefully. If you feel you’ve contemplated all possible aspects of your object, spend some time just sitting with your eyes closed. Notice how you feel. Notice how you feel about the object you have just studied.
After doing this exercise, it is very important you present the object you have focussed on to somebody as a gift. Give it to them anonymously, without expecting anything in return.

If you do this exercise regularly, you may start to notice that you have more appreciation of small things. The purpose of this exercise, is to create a state of mind that allows you to appreciate beauty more easily.

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