Noticing my insides brings me back to myself, but noticing my surroundings allows me to locate myself in a greater context. It allows me to locate myself in relation to the world around me
This week, I was asked by professors to reflect on the concept of noticing. This is my reflection.
What am I noticing right now? What am I feeling in my body right now?
My favorite yoga teacher, Bernie Clark, always says in his classes, “Notice what happens when you happen to breathe.” Seane Corn often quotes her very first teacher, saying, “Breathe, and everything changes.”
When I take Bernie’s advice, Seane Corn’s becomes true.
When I breathe, I feel my body extend.
Like last night, when I was in the shower. I bent my right leg and crossed it over my left, resting my ankle on my knee. I did this to shave the right leg. I wanted it to bring it closer to my chest without bending over, for when I bend over, the water gets into my sinuses.
I breathed into the pose, and two things happened: first my spine grew, and then I settled into my hip. I felt a deep stretch. It was delicious.
But that was last night.
Let’s come back to now – for now is where the magic happens.
In any given moment, I can notice one of two things, in one of two ways. I can notice my insides, or I can notice my surroundings. I can notice what I feel and think in my body and mind, or I can notice what’s going on outside.
Both are effective and both are important.
Noticing my insides brings me back to myself, but noticing my surroundings allows me to locate myself in a greater context. It allows me to locate myself in relation to the world around me. It broadens my perspective and removes me ever so slightly from the self-centeredness David Foster Wallace talks about in his 2005 Kenyon College commencement speech, This Is Water:
“Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence…Think about it: There is no experience you’ve had that you were not at the absolute center of.”
Wallace is right.
How could we?
We each see the world through our own eyes.
That’s not bad.
Self-centeredness, to me, is a good thing. A useful thing. “Good,” to me, means useful, as opposed to aesthetically pleasing. In my difficult moments, I hear myself say, “I don’t feel centered, I don’t feel centered, I don’t feel connected to myself.”
That said, don’t we want to be self-centered?
Don’t we want to be centered in ourselves?
I do. It keeps me healthy.
To me, “self-centered” means “self-grounded.”
What it often gets equated with, however, is selfishness.
That’s where noticing our surroundings comes in.
Noticing our surroundings allows us to use self-centeredness for good, rather than evil; for love, rather than harm. It allows us to remain self-centered while remembering that there is a larger system at play.
We need both; life is about balance.
So now, let me notice.
I am sitting in Think Coffee on Bleecker Street. I am staring at a black and white computer screen, made that way by manipulation of my settings to keep addiction at bay. Beyond my screen stands a heavy brick wall.
Beyond the screens stands a heavy brick wall.
The word “my” creates a sense of possessiveness and identification with an object that I prefer to forgo.
On that brick wall are 3 pieces of art, each of which has a cardboard canvas. A song plays which I have not heard before. I cannot discern the lyrics. Is it the fault of the singer or the fault of my ears? I notice I used the word “fault.” I notice myself let it go. I notice the song end. I notice a new song begin. I notice I still cannot make out the lyrics.
I notice myself think, maybe it is my hearing.
I notice myself flash back to times of googling lyrics and reading them on the screen as the song plays. I remember and affirm for myself that that works well for me, that I hear text better once I see it on the page. Before that, it’s muffled and can be anything.
I notice myself surrender to not hearing the song’s lyrics, but I notice myself feel the rhythm, and I let that be enough.
I notice my purple sweatshirt that I’ve worn only once this year. I feel its warmth on my body. I just came from a sweaty tap rehearsal, but Think Coffee is cold. This sweatshirt says NYU on it. It is the sole piece of NYU clothing I have in my dorm room. I try not to rep brand names on my body. I try to be myself and be anonymous. I try not to stamp NYU on my body. But I’m wearing it today, and that is fine. I notice as I write this that I judge myself for being an NYU student. That I judge myself for the privilege that I have, and that I internalize the resentment other people have towards NYU. I notice that I feel ashamed to attend NYU because of its financial stigma. I notice myself recall my babysitting gig last week. I recall the mother telling me that she grew up near our campus calling NYU “N-Y-Poo.”
I notice that I have written a tangent and marvel that looking at a single item can launch a whole story. I notice that I love that about my brain, about myself. I notice that I have so much fun writing. I notice that I feel my fingers clattering on the keys and I notice that this is a rare sensation because I normally write in my journal first. I notice that I pride myself on my sparing use of technology. I notice that pride is another form of judgment. I notice that anything I feel proud of, I feel shame over when it is missing. I notice that pride leads to addiction and pressure.
I notice that I feel fear: fear that I am missing out on the full-body experience of writing by composing this on my computer. I notice that I miss the feeling of flowing on the page but the efficiency with which these words appear on the screen is magical. I am creating at the speed of thought.
I notice that I have fear, control, and resistance to the changing world, that I want to boycott new technology, be bigger and stronger than it. I notice that I want to be perfect and clean of all vices and live in a primitive way. I notice that because I know Amazon treats their delivery drivers poorly, I never want to order from Amazon again. I notice that I want to be self-sufficient and independent and shop for my items myself. I notice that I pride myself on being a minimalist, of living well with few resources, which includes technology. I notice that I feed on that pride and fear what will happen if I allow in more resources.
I think of my eating disorder, and notice that my restrictive relationship with technology has replaced my restrictive relationship with food. I notice that what began as an attempt to be healthy turned into an obsession with control and restriction. I notice that I live by the idea that less is more, in every capacity. I notice that sometimes it serves me, and sometimes it doesn’t. I notice how counter-intuitive it is to do “less” in excess. I notice the fine line between balance and control.
I notice my shoulders tensing. I notice I can’t stop typing. I notice I feel somewhat high. I notice I am missing my brother. I notice this easily because I have been typing for a nonstop for the past five minutes and gradually all comes out. I reflect that he is four weeks into his freshman year of college and I feel farther from him than ever. I notice I feel depressed and sad and I feel tightness in my solar plexus. I notice myself link my depression and sadness to a phone call I had with my brother one hour ago, in which he told me he is struggling
I notice that I felt shocked when he said that. Not that he is struggling, because subconsciously, even consciously, I knew that already. We are brother and sister so I sensed it from afar. I notice that sometimes, even though he is two years younger than me, I feel like and wish he were my twin.
I notice my shock comes from his honesty and transparency. I notice I expected him to show toughness and denial. I notice how my heart breaks for him and how I want to sob and cry and hold him. I notice how I want to go back and be babies in our cribs so badly. I notice my heart wrench thinking of him in pain. I notice my urge to slap anyone who might be causing it.
I notice myself cry as I type and notice how good it feels. I notice the catharsis. I notice myself affirm that I love to cry in public and I feel myself smile as I clock this. I notice my terror that my brother will lose his sense of self. I notice that I am so scared for him and so sad for him and that I want to take his pain as my pain. I notice that I already have because I do this, because I am sensitive, because I have porous boundaries, and because he is my brother. I notice that even though we talked for 13 minutes, I feel like I got shot in the heart. I notice that I want to lie in bed with him and hold him, not inappropriately but as a big sister, as a source of comfort. I notice that I want my baby brother back and that I want to protect him from all the pain in the world.
I notice that I’m angry at myself for how I spoke to him on the call. For not knowing what to say or how to make it better because I am able to do that for my friends. I notice that I didn’t have to choose today between emotional health maintenance and this assignment, that the two are intertwined, and that I am grateful for that. I notice that my family is important to me and that I want to put it first from here on out.
I notice that I can’t stop thinking about my brother. I notice that I can’t stop feeling about my brother. I notice that I want to scream and sob. I notice that I want to say help, help, help, because it hurts, it hurts, it hurts. I notice that I have new perspective. I think back about the nerves I felt this week, beginning my new internship, getting into my favorite class, and leading a rhythm tap rehearsal this morning with a peer I had never met. I notice the nerves and fear I had about putting myself out there and beginning where I am as I am are insignificant. I notice that I have it very good. I notice that those fears are all in my head. That my real concern should be my family and my relationships and that I should use these opportunities as outlets for stress, rather than inlets of stress.
I notice that I feel scared that I will never make it in life. I notice that I feel scared that I will never make it in theatre. I notice that I feel scared I will never make it because I love it so much. I remember this fear is irrational because I have already made it because we have all already made because there is no such thing as making it or not making it because I have already been cast in the ultimate dream role, myself. I remember that there is no scarcity, that no one ever sees a field of roses and says, “wow, there are too many roses here,” that one rose is beautiful and so are a whole field and that we are all roses and can all exist in the same field.
I notice that this is a journal entry, that this is stream of consciousness, that this is my version of noticing, my understanding of noticing. That noticing is not cognitive or intellectual but very grounded in the here and now.
I notice that I want to commit to more noticing. I notice that I want to feel what happens when I floss, and that I want to floss every day, and that I am inspired to floss because of a play I saw this weekend about flossing. I want to notice what happens to my posture when I am seated in chairs, like I am now, and like I will be in 20 minutes as I watch a play at Flea Theater. I notice that noticing leads to stream of consciousness. I notice that I can notice forever. I notice myself choose to stop.
In closing, I’d like to remind you that these thoughts and opinions are my own, and not meant to be forced upon anyone. They’ve been filtered through my own experience.
Keep tuning in, keep sharing, keep coming back – but most importantly, keep being you. That’s all that matters.