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Excerpt #5 of Rachel Kelly's 'Singing in the Rain' - Seeing afresh
Posted by SANE
19th Mar 2019

Seeing afresh

It’s the weekend, and a cousin has brought her three-year-old daughter, Hannah, for lunch. She is playing with our pink pig salt shaker on the kitchen table, piling up mounds of white crystals. Despite the mess she is making, there’s something wonderful about her delight in this simple thing. Inspired by Hannah, I try and look at a salt shaker as if seeing it for the first time. I marvel at the efficiency of its design, the ease with which the salt flows through, and the way the crystals catch the light. Before it was just something small and pink.

I’m stealing this idea of noticing everyday stuff in a new light from the Buddhist concept of ‘beginner’s mind’, from the word shoshin. The idea is to drop our expert’s mind and preconceived notions and look at the world with curiosity and delight, as if it were brand new. The idea is usually linked to activities, but it is also a useful way to approach relationships. When we no longer have assumptions about what we expect from someone and behave as if we were meeting them for the first time, life can be much smoother. Ask my husband...

I now make a point of noticing and appreciating everyday objects. One of the easiest ways to do this is to deny yourself something you routinely use. See how much you appreciate a comfy chair after a few hours of continuous standing. Enjoy the way you sink into its cushions, the feel of the linen fabric on your bare legs. Observe the chair from a new perspective, as if you had come from another planet. Think about the ways it helps you. Imagine all those whose efforts went into making it, from the woodcutter, to the carpenter, to the designer, to the person who sold it to you from a shop.

This approach works equally well to renew a sense of delight in the miracle of our own bodies, which we often take for granted and neglect. Stop using your hands for a moment. Then appreciate the miracle of engineering that they are: some scientists believe that hands are the single most important development since our ancestors evolved from being chimpanzees to walking on two feet. Nearly all that our species has achieved has been with our hands, and not using them for a moment gives Hannah and me a chance to reflect on their remarkable adaptability. We had fun exploring things we could do with our hands, from clapping to counting on our fingers. Hannah's hands were delightfully rosy and plump, mine less so. But both of us, and me especially, ended our session with a real sense of exuberant appreciation. An added bonus is there may be some salt left over for lunch.

Your turn to notice everyday objects with a beginner’s mind:

Think of an everyday object, and imagine you have just used this object for the first time ever. Perhaps you have come down from Mars.

  • What do you appreciate about it? In what ways does it help you?
  • Imagine how your day would go if this object didn’t exist. How would it be inconvenient?

Use a piece of paper and a pen to draw round your hand slowly. Think of all the ways you use your hands and be thankful for them. You could write on each finger something you appreciate about your hands, whether it’s playing the piano or stroking your pet.

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