‘Now close your eyes…. and FEEL!’
It’s the mindfulness advice that’s been made mainstream thanks to THAT scene from The Barbie Movie, but this very simple ‘hack’ (of deactivating one sense, to better engage with another) is one that I’ve had tucked up my ‘self-care’ sleeve for a while now.
I say self-care quite loosely, as I’d be inclined to think the idea (which you could say is the antithesis of the old ‘seeing is believing’ proverb) has more roots in happiness cultivation and life-affirmation, than it does in the nuts and bolts of wellness.
It first started, or should I say first became ‘my thing’, at a music concert earlier this summer, when my overwhelming desire to ‘drink in’ the spectacle and its significance, seemed so much more than my senses could stomach in one momentary mouthful.
It’s perhaps not the best analogy, but it reminded me of those pint-downing shenanigans I used to witness in my pub-going era.
The ones where, despite the drinker's best efforts, so much of that full glass (a metaphor in itself, perhaps?) would end up spilling over onto the floor!
Similarly, I could feel in this particular moment, that my eyes (despite the heckling by my brain to 'Down it! Down it!')...they were letting a large proportion of the live music 'tonic' slip!
And so I closed them...
The result, as expected, was goose-pimplingly immersive.
As Barbie herself discovered, there are ‘wow’ moments (maybe even epiphanies) to be had simply from allowing sound and intuition to take the reigns, and by removing visual information from the thinking equation.
I have found this technique feeds nicely into another positive-thinking-themed quote that I stumbled upon, which is by Kurt Vonnegut.
‘And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.’
I realised the other day, that I've quite unconsciously recited these words - ‘If this isn't nice, I don't know what is’ - on more than a handful of occasions this summer, and especially in those moments where I'm channelling my best eyes-closed, feeling-the-feels Barbie!
None of these moments, on the face of it, were particularly Earth-shattering. They included, but were not limited to:
Swimming in an empty pool... in a rare half an hour of summer holiday 'alone time'
Watching the Changing of The Guard in Windsor
Marvelling at my son’s ’concentration face’ whilst he endeavoured (successfully) to make a miniature basketball net out of an old egg box and lolly sticks.
Marlow river sparkling in the sunshine, on a lovely afternoon walk with one of my oldest friends.
It’s these moments that I am learning, are the ones worth honing the senses to notice and savour…whether via the medium of a moment’s shut-eye, or by taking a deliberate and purposeful mental picture, in the manner of Alec Baldwin in that famous Friends episode in which he cameo’d.
The only downside to collecting these precious nuggets of niceness, if I had to pinpoint one, is that it does bring the bane of ‘Kairosclerosis’ (ie. How awareness of happiness detracts from the experience) into even sharper focus.
I learnt of this word recently whilst perusing the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, and I love how it perfectly captures the Troxler Effect of happiness.
In other words, how the very act of staring at it and trying to savour it, causes the intellect to identify it and reduce it to ‘little more than an aftertaste.’
These down sides to possessing a complex machine such as the brain, certainly make a moot point out of the old ‘happiness as a destination’ theory.
They’re also the reason why I find myself more convinced than ever, that THE best way of cultivating happiness.... is to imbibe life's precious pints of ‘if this isn’t nice, I don't know what is!' not through a down-the-hatch and hope-for-the-best approach, but by siphoning its nectar though the cerebral straw of 'feeling is believing.'