3 Simple Words to Help You Feel Present, Grounded, and Nourished

Relaxation

“The little things? They’re not little.” ~Jon Kabat-Zinn

Remember Halloween, 2018? No? We wouldn’t, either, except that it happens to be the day our mindfulness journey—and our lives—changed forever.

First, some background. We (Deborah and Willow) met when our boys played on the same fifth-grade soccer team. We connected quickly through our shared love of books, writing, dogs, hiking, and strong coffee.

Something else we had in common: We were both failed meditators. To be honest, we were a bit embarrassed that we couldn’t make a mindfulness practice stick.

Thank Goodness We WEREN’T Paying Attention 

Now, back to the story. In 2018, October 31st landed on a Wednesday (an important detail, as you’ll soon discover). That morning, we drove to San Francisco to see a new exhibit at an art gallery.

Parking spot secured, coffee in hand, we were first in line as we waited for the museum doors to open.

We waited. And waited. And then it dawned on us.

Was the museum closed on Wednesdays? Yep.

Had we paid attention to the schedule beforehand? Nope.

As usual, we’d been too distracted and busy—and now our plans were ruined.

Before heading home, we decided to walk around and explore downtown San Francisco. As we set off, we decided to try an experiment: We would slow down and tune in to, well, anything and everything.

We’d notice what was happening around us. We’d notice what was happening inside us. And we’d notice what happened when we intentionally paid attention.

Oh, the things we noticed! Little pink flowers poking out through a crack in the sidewalk. A tiny dog in a pale blue sequined jacket. A sweet older couple holding hands as they shuffled across the street together, which instantly warmed our hearts.

Two hours later, we realized that intentional noticing was making us feel present and grounded. Nourished and aware. We were totally engaged with our lives—and we loved it.

A Three-Word Invitation to Slow Down and Be Present

We decided—on the spot—to each start a daily journal based on the prompt “Today I noticed.” We’d write a sentence and draw something (anything!) about an observation. Nothing would be too small or mundane to be worth noticing.

A few weeks later, we shared what we’d been recording. As we paged through our journals, we found ourselves saying things like, “I noticed that!” and “I feel the same way!” As we laughed and talked, we realized how much of everyday life we’d been missing out on because we were too distracted to notice.

Here are just a few precious moments we might have missed if it wasn’t for our “Today I Noticed” mindfulness practice:

Today I noticed that just two stalks of freesias make the whole room smell divine.

Today I noticed how easy it is to practice “lovingkindness” on my dog.

Today I noticed how happy it makes me to hear my husband unloading the dishes.  

Today I noticed I love coffee so much that I imagine my second cup while still drinking my first cup.

Our day-to-day lives were becoming richer and brighter simply because we were paying more attention.

2000+ Days of Mindfulness—and Still Counting 

Now, five-and-a-half years later, we’re still observing, writing, and drawing about some of the funny, surprising, sweet, and ordinary moments that we all see but rarely take the time to notice. This daily practice leaves us feeling tuned in, present, and connected—just like any other mindfulness practice.

Unlike meditation, for us, this approach to mindfulness has stuck. Noticing and recording has become a way of life—and we don’t plan on ever stopping.

Here are five reasons why we’re convinced that “Today I noticed” is the secret to lasting mindfulness.

1. It’s 100% natural.

We’re all noticing things, all the time. The key is noticing yourself noticing. Paying attention doesn’t require a meditation pillow, a yoga mat, or a mantra. It just takes a simple prompt—”Today I noticed”—to shift your mindset.

2. It makes us feel present.

As Jon Kabat-Zinn so wisely stated in the quote above, the little moments aren’t little because they’re what make up our lives. When we move too fast or feel too overwhelmed to notice them, we miss out on an essential part of daily life. Intentional noticing is a way to instantly feel grounded in the here and now.

3. It sparks gratitude.

When we slow down and pay attention, even for an instant, we stop taking things for granted. Today I Noticed reminds us how easy it is to find things to appreciate if we just slow down and look for them.

4. It boosts compassion.

As we discovered during our very first session of showing each other our observations, the little moments are evidence of our shared humanity. Whether we’re seeing a new bud blossom into a beautiful flower, hearing a beloved dog snoring, or appreciating a smile from a stranger, such “ordinary” experiences feel downright extraordinary when we realize they’re part of a bigger collective experience.

5. It’s a creative outlet.

If you’d like to have a creative practice but can’t find the time, “Today I Noticed” mindfulness is for you. You can spend as much or as little time as you’d like writing and drawing about an observation. This bite-sized break is an easy way to tap into a delicious right-brain experience and feel both completely focused and completely relaxed. And wonderfully creative!

Here are some tips and ideas to keep in mind.

6 Tips to Start a Noticing Practice Today 

1. Start paying attention to little things—thoughts, feelings, observations—as you go through your day. Nothing is too “small” to notice and appreciate.

2. On a piece of paper, starting with the words “Today I noticed,” write about your observation with a sentence or two.

3. Create a sketch or some kind of visual to accompany or illustrate what you wrote. Remember, everyone is an artist in their own unique way.

4. Find a buddy to share your observations with. Start a “Today I Noticed” club and host monthly sharing sessions. Or hold a weekly noticing session with your team at work.

5. Instead of asking your kids, “How was school today?” (“BORING.”), ask them what they’ve noticed. It’s a guaranteed conversation starter!

6. As you notice more and more things (and you will, we promise), keep track of your observations in your phone or a notebook. Then, when you’re ready for a creative break, you can dive right in and start writing and drawing.

Go Forth and Notice!

Have we convinced you to try noticing your way to mindfulness? We hope so!

When you simply let three words, “Today I noticed,” inspire you to pay attention to the little things that usually slip away unnoticed, you feel present, grounded, and nourished. Small things become more interesting and memorable when we simply take the time to notice them.

We’ll end with what may be the most powerful discovery of all: The more you notice, the more you notice. And that, friends, is where the real mindfulness magic happens.


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