In How to Train a Wild Elephant, Jan Chozen Bays suggests an exercise: notice the color blue as you move through the world. Of course, you could pick any color.
I tried this mindfulness exercise one day walking from my office in downtown Burlington to the University of Vermont. It’s a mile long walk up a hill. In the grey interior of winter, I would sometimes listen to music as I walked up the hill. The music provides a soundtrack to the movement and the passing by of life feels like a movie with its musical score. This particular day of record-breaking precocious spring, I decided not to listen to music. I wanted to “listen” to the sun and the sounds of spring instead.
As I walked up the hill, I also decided to attend to the color blue. Blue jeans, the occasional blue car, handicap signs in parking lots all popped out. The more I opened to that particular sensation, the more attentive I became. After a while, the blues started popping out–the odd blue trim, the blue fraternity sign, the glint of a blue shirt of the students walking by.
Attending to the outside world is a good way to get yourself out of the storytelling mind. Looking for the color blue–or whatever you like–is a good way to connect you to the world, more as it is rather than how you imagine it. Picking a color gives your busy mind something to do other than spinning stories, pressing on the to-do list, and worrying about the ten thousand things you can worry about.
Mindfulness practice does not need to be complicated, stationary, or interior. Any time that we attend to something with interest, we are practicing meditation. Any time we set aside the anxious preoccupations of the mind and pay attention to what is in front of us, we are practicing meditation. Any time we notice the color blue, we are meditating and can enjoy a wink of awakening.