The Importance of Noticing Small Moments of Beauty

The Importance of Noticing Small Moments of Beauty

via Mindful by Jane Anne Staw

It was an ordinary day. Midafternoon, I took my dog for her usual walk around the block, mind on remedies for the writing class I was to teach that evening. While I was known for the community that usually formed in my classes, this semester was an exception. I had already tried several strategies for bringing the students together, but so far nothing had worked.

In those days—before mindfulness was mainstream—I was always worried about something: my teaching, an essay I was writing, my granddaughters, my garden, a recent conversation with a friend. It didn’t take much to turn the anxiety faucet on, and once flowing, it could pull most areas of my life into its current.

About halfway around the block that afternoon, I happened to glance down and notice a dried sycamore leaf curled gracefully on the pavement. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen a dried sycamore leaf. Giant sycamores line the verges of our Berkeley neighborhood. But that afternoon, instead of just noticing, I stopped to appreciate. The leaf looked so beautiful, poised in its balletic position, curled gracefully upward, its stem extending for several inches, rooting it on the sidewalk. I stood for several minutes noticing the leaf’s fragility, its crispness, its delicacy. Then I continued my walk around the block. When I arrived home 10 minutes later, I realized that the happiness that had infused me as I gazed at the sycamore leaf was still with me. I had stopped worrying about my class—and nothing else to feel anxious about had taken its place. This is quite amazing, I thought. I’ve never experienced anything like this before. Something so small sustaining my happiness. In an instant, I realized that I might inadvertently have discovered something important. Transformative! And I decided to try to replicate my experience.

It was the small moments of unexpected beauty that sent a rush of happiness through me. Moments that I discovered on my own and that I might have previously rushed past.

I was so excited that in a flash I had a name for what I had done, and made a commitment to practicing small for an entire year. And since I’m a writer, I decided to write about my experiences. That was the beginning: an ordinary day on a routine walk that suddenly morphed into the portal to a new way of living my life…

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