I watched it mindlessly as it waved gently in the breeze of the coming storm. I was sitting in the tuk-tuk on the way to the train station. There was traffic at the stop sign so there we sat, my mind racing, full of many things, my eyes fixed on the leaf, unseeing.
And then a shift, as if my consciousness finally caught up with my senses. Look at that leaf! I love big leaves like that. I focused on the depth of its color, the pattern of its veins, and the quality of its movement. I was noticing.
What’s the difference? And what’s the key to this difference?
I think it has a lot to do with intention.
Intention is a powerful thing. There is a reason that one of the foundational ideas of Nonviolent Communication is to approach interaction with the intention to connect. There is also a reason that offenses are more readily overlooked or pardoned and forgotten when there is an absence of intention to hurt. And the reverse is also true, as things tend to hurt more when backed by an intent to harm.
In many ways, noticing is seeing with intention. We see things every day, but how often do we really notice? How often do we engage the intent to observe attentively, to explore with our eyes and look deeper? For most of us, I’d guess not that often, which prompts this question: How can we bring more intention to our seeing and therefore notice more frequently? What can spark us to pay attention? How can we better tune in to our surroundings for brief moments to feed our inspiration and creativity?
This, in turn, seems to be a lot about mindfulness. Intention is active, meaning we choose it. So if we want to notice, or see with intention, then we must be mindful enough to look and see on purpose. Mindfulness reflects an awareness of self and situation and is also an active choice - something we can turn on and off. Have you ever felt the need to bring some mindfulness in a certain situation and yet chose not to? Intention, mindfulness, awareness, and paying attention are all choices we can make.
So how does this all fit together? How can we actively cultivate intention? Ultimately, we must be intentional about being intentional. We must be aware enough to awake the mindfulness to purposefully choose intention. We must be more in tune and in touch holistically with ourselves and our surroundings. And we must be attentive and listen when our senses send us cues - like images of leaves swaying in the breeze.