However, this multi-functional brain of mine is also often switched on when I am going for what is meant to be a relaxed stroll or long walk. No matter how pretty the scenery is, when my brain is going, I can’t remember what I saw. This is a pity, as it means that I miss out on wonderful beauty and also haven’t relaxed much during the walk.
Proponents of mindfulness will say that it’s important to pay attention to what’s going on around you. Focus on the sound, light, colours, what not…they mean well and it’s great to know what ‘should’ happen. Not so easy to put into practice, though.
Luckily there’s an improv exercise which does exactly that: Pointing at things and saying what they are. Sounds silly, I know, but simply naming the objects that are in the space around you forces you to acknowledge them and give them a bit of your attention.
By doing this while walking to the bus, I’ve discovered many hidden gems, such as this upside-down house in London.
The more detail you go into when pointing and describing, the more aware you will become of your immediate surroundings. If what you see triggers a memory or emotion which brings you back into your head, worry not! For a brief moment, you were completely focused on the present and those moments can be repeated and amplified.
A variation of this exercise is one I learned from Paul Z Jackson, where you touch everything that’s red, metal, organic, make your own category.
If muttering to yourself in public is not your thing, do it in your home when no one’s around. Or keep the pointing gesture small and under your breath. Though I dare you to do this in a crowded space (improv classes don’t count). You'll be pleased to know that you'll probably go unnoticed because most people will be so deeply stuck in their thoughts, they're not present.