Well, I’m not sure I’d agree with ol’ Snoopy here that the secret of life is to keep looking up but I would say that for me, this simple act is a great tool for staying engaged in the present moment, strengthening reverence for life, and it even helps me to develop more patience.
Case and point:
Yesterday afternoon, I found myself standing in line at the Good Food Store (our local organic market) during an especially high volume time of day. Typically, I strategically avoid such times, as they tend to fall on the same hour-long blocks each day. But sometimes duty calls at inopportune times and I must answer.
There I was, standing in line alongside a plethora of other Missoulians. After careful examination, as soon as my feet hit their standing-in-place mark in the line I’d deemed to be the shortest, a wildly underestimated but important insight arose: No one enjoys waiting in line.
It’s true, you know.
I see it as an important insight because it speaks to an ability to not think only of myself and how things are effecting me. When I get stuck in my small sense of self, I turn off to the greater self that is all around me, which disables me from acting in such a way that is connected, kind, and caring.
Since waiting in line is no one’s idea of a good time – myself included – the practice I like to do in such occasions is: to look up and all around.
It’s as simple as it sounds.
While I was standing in line, instead of actively waiting, which for me equates to a certain level of teeth gritting tolerance and subpar presence, I looked up and all around me – though, there’s a little more to it than mere ocular aversion. When I look up and all around, I also engage with what it is I’m looking at. I investigate, I ponder, I ask silent questions. I delight in the spectacle of whatever it is that surrounds me.
In the case of the GFS, my attention was held for brief sways of time by the lighting, darkened plum color, pipes, and ventilation system all as part of the high ceiling above; by the space resting in between myself and the objects and people around me; by the wooden shelving and structures supporting signs; by the countless amount of companies and factories and locations that forged all of the products that perch so effortlessly in arm’s reach when strolling the aisles; by the skilled construction workers that fashioned the windows and doors and flooring; by the personnel who keep the GFS running and friendly and well stocked.
It’s a lovely way to pass the time. And, as this is something I practice often, I’ll tell you that every time I do it I am not only surprised at how quickly the time passes but I also tend to find myself slightly disappointed when I have to disengage with looking around and devote my attention instead to checking out.
The simple act of looking up allows me to un-glue myself from my own pockets of thought. For me, it’s akin to looking out over the mountains that wonderfully surround our town of Missoula: I am automatically propelled to take a deeper inhalation and exhalation.
As soon as my head tips back and my eyes glance upward – whether it’s to gaze at the tops of trees or mountains, the rooftops of buildings, or a high ceiling laced with lighting – I breathe in and out with a more pronounced sense of connection and reverence and ease.
It’s a funny little thing, really. I can’t explain the science – or rather art – behind why it works the way it does. All I know is that it does work. For me, anyway.