By Dr. Steve Whiteman
Noticing is having your attention on what is, which leads to appreciation of what is, which enhances your competence
Imagine that you pull up to a familiar intersection, the one at which a homeless person is regularly stationed. The light is red and you stop. She has a cardboard sign asking for money or work. Perhaps some mornings you give her a dollar and think and feel (whatever you usually think or feel?) that the government should do more, that she should get a job, or you speculate about what might have happened in her life. Perhaps you’re grateful that it’s not you.
Just notice how your attention quickly moved from the person on the street (what is), to your thinking (usually some version of what isn’t, and how what is should be different).
Noticing and acceptance
Noticing is having your attention on what is. This morning, let’s imagine that you pull up to the intersection and your normal responses don’t show up. As you look through the window of your car, you simply notice the other person: the way the light shines through her hair, the shape of her face, the hole in the top of her boot, the brown paper bag resting precariously on her knee, the way the side of the bag has crumpled more on the left than on the right.
This morning, everything you notice, you accept without wanting it to be different. The unwashed hands, the pale skin, the frayed edge of her pants’ cuff. Perhaps your window is open enough to hear the morning
sounds of the city, so just notice that too. Let your attention include all of this in a very practical, sensory way.
Congratulations, you’re giving effortless attention to what is, exactly as it is. In noticing her sitting on the sidewalk, you’re not wishing she were someone else, someplace else. Your attention is on what is. Deep into this noticing and accepting, imagine this homeless person looks up, and she sees you noticing her. Do you know what it is she sees? She sees appreciation.
Appreciation is another name for inclusion, for love. This appreciation has no agenda, no internal dialogue, no spin. You’re not just another politician telling yourself a story. And you can get to appreciation without demanding of yourself that you love someone you don’t like. Just begin by noticing them and accepting what you notice without deletion or distortion.
From where I sit, this is the basis of love: noticing, and accepting what you notice (including your own thoughts). When you put these two together—noticing and accepting—you will always find yourself in love with what is, as it is. You become God’s eyes and ears.
So how do you become God’s hands? This is one of the most asked questions by new students: “OK, so what do I do about it?” Just notice that most everything you want to change about your life situation, the world, other people, or yourself, is itself the result of doing. Noticing leads to a lot less doing. Noticing leads to what I call natural competence.
Let me give you an example of natural competence in action. Imagine an excellent computer repair person, one whose ability is almost uncanny. Where computers are concerned, he notices everything. In fact, he has no preference for where the problem is. He is not just a ‘keyboard’ or ’hard drive’ or ‘software’ person. He simply notices all of the information that comes his way, even information that seems contradictory, and accepts all of it. Unusual problems only seem to spark his curiosity.
What does his noticing and accepting demonstrate? Appreciation. It’s not too much to say that he loves his work. He now repairs computers so quickly, with so few detours, false starts, or missteps that his colleagues can’t quite account for how he does it. He doesn’t know how he does it either. The process is outside his awareness, the individual steps are collapsed into a single step—noticing. It is delightful to watch him at work. He is all awareness. His attention is divided between what he notices out there and what he notices ‘in here’, in his thinking.
Welcome to natural competence—doing what needs to be done while doing less and less, simply through the power of noticing.
© Dr Steve Whiteman, 2004
Dr Steve Whiteman is the founder of Trillium Center for Awakening in the mountain of northeast Georgia, USA. Website: www.trilliumcenter.com
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