What is happening right in front of us that we don’t see? And what do we see, but fail to notice? Do you notice what you notice?
What Do You Notice?
I was running late. As I walked out of my building I heard my inner mean girl begin to attack. Instinctively, I pulled out my phone to journal my thoughts.
These are habits that I am trying to break — the typing while walking, and, more fundamentally, my compulsion to record every thought and moment of the day, which triggers my impulse to type while walking for fear of “missing out” on capturing my thoughts.
As soon as I caught myself, I reminded myself to feel what I was feeling, to be in the moment.
I put away the phone and channeled my frustration in a purposeful stride to the Union Square subway station, so I could get to the subway and to my destination.
With laser precision, I weaved around a tree and a chess table, while trying not to smack into a person photographing the Hari Krishnas. And then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the pigeons.
Two different flocks swooped up and around the south plaza of Union Square in unison, gliding effortlessly on their wings.
There’s something about seeing birds in flight that captivates me. The beauty and synchronicity of it.
Perhaps its the mystery of how they communicate with each other so that they all fly off in the same direction, together, as one. No leader or follower. Just coordinated action.
Their effortless magic is one of the most beautiful things to watch. It reminds me that we are part of a bigger landscape.
Despite my rush, I paused, for the briefest moment, to witness this miracle of nature and breathe it in before heading down the stairs.
As I swiped my metrocard and pushed through the turnstile, I noticed what I noticed.
A reminder of how vast the universe is. How many things occur each day that are so much bigger than us. How there is a divine miracle in every small thing that we see, even the things we see that we don’t always truly notice.
As I approached the stairs to the uptown 4/5/6, I saw the uptown express on the track. That was the train I needed. On another day, I would pull out a sprint. But I was wearing heels, and didn’t have it in me in the moment.
It was still sitting on the track as I started down the stairs. Perhaps….? I quickened my pace.
As I got to the bottom of the stairs I looked up and met the train operator’s gaze. Something in that split second told me he would wait for me to board.
I scooted onto the train, careful not to push into the people who were standing right in the doorway. The subway doors closed behind me. I hadn’t realized that I was holidng my breath, yet as the train pulled away, I let the air out in a big sigh.
Relief. Gratitude. I made it.
Such a simple thing, but so often it doesn’t work in our favor. The race down the stairs ends with doors shut in our face. We stand on the platform, defeated by the slow person in front of us, the crowd at the turnstile, the people who wouldn’t move out of the way.
When we make it, it’s everything.
It can be a day-making moment. Magic.
As I basked in the gratitude of making the train, I noticed a silence. Not even five minutes earlier, my inner mean girl was on a tear, ripping me apart for my failings of the morning. Now she was gone. In her place was a fealing of grace.
The tight feeling in my chest had released, and breath moved through the open channels. On an uptown 5 train barrelling at high speed toward Grand Central, I felt peace and stillness.
The day can shift that quickly. The flutter of wings as pigeons take flight. The noticing of a miracle of nature. A heartbeat. A breath.
Was it a coincidence that not even a full minute after I noticed the birds in flight, I made the train? I suppose so, if you believe in coincidences.
But I also considered the possibility that perhaps making the train was the reward I received for noticing the pigeons. It was my reward for being willing to pause, look up, and acknowledge something beyond myself.
I noticed a miracle, and I got one of my own.
As I came above ground at 86th Street, I looked around. It was a typical weekday scene: people walking, dodging traffic, pushing baby strollers. People, rushing from one place to the next, with their eyes focused on their phones.
So many things happen right in front of our eyes.
But how much of that do we see? And how much of what we see do we even notice?
I am learning that the real Fear of Missing Out is the fear of missing what’s right in front of me.
Look up. See what’s in front of you. Notice.
It won’t just change your day. It will change your life.