An unexpected book arrived in the mail the other day. A gift from my friend’s at Wisdom Publications. Zen Master Raven: The Teachings of a Wise Old Bird. by Zen Master human form, Robert Aitken. Here the koans are told by and to animals of the forest: raven, porcupine, owl, woodpecker, badger, black bear, and […]
We live to be fascinated by the fascinating. We are built to appreciate the novel. After all, something new on the horizon may have meant dinner or being dinner for our ancestors. However, today, novelty seeking can become an end in itself, and has become so in our culture. There must always be something new, something exciting.
Today we take fascination to an extreme, as cultural boredom forces us to seek escalating entertainment value from our moments. Fifteen minutes of fame has become fifteen seconds. What have you done for me lately?
But we could, perhaps in a coup to corporate advertising and network ratings, seek fascination right under our noses. It is possible to find the simple rhythm of breathing, not only interesting, but downright fascinating. We just have to give ourselves permission to do so. My cat finds subtle rustlings in the baseboards fascinating; perhaps a mouse to play with? Most other things leave him nonplussed. He does not have a choice, but we do. We can choose to make the most ordinary of things the most fascinating of things. And the turn is in attention.
Breathing varies like everything else. If we pay close attention to it we can notice these subtle variations and find a world of engagement within them. The actual breath is interesting. The idea of breathing is mundane, pedestrian, boring (unless, of course, you stop breathing and then it becomes very interesting). So, find your actual breath moving right now beneath your nose. Let that fill your attention, wash over you. Fascination.
If breathing can be fascinating, sitting in traffic could be fascinating; listening to the most tedious person on the planet could be fascinating. Every moment of your life could be fascinating and just blow your mind. Mindfulness opens this door. Walk through it now.
On the other side of this door life opens up. There is no longer a pressure to make things exciting. We can rest into this moment as it is and find refuge in the most prosaic circumstances. We don’t have to channel surf; perhaps we could leave the television off (and what would most of us do with those three plus hours a day that you actually watch television? Think of the possibilities!).
Life is here waiting for us to arrive. It is waiting for us to make the choice to notice, to open, and to lean into to what is happening now. Fascination gives us the go-ahead to be in any circumstance. To just be as we are without having to add anything; without needing to impress anybody; without needing to make a Facebook status update about how righteous this previous moment just was.
And, of course, when the moment is actually “fascinating” by providing novel stimulation, all the better. We can revel in the seismic shifts in sensation and perception to enjoy this moment. Whether it is riding a rollercoaster, sliding down a snow covered mountain at high speed, or hitting a pure golf shot, this exceptional moment can be experienced as even more exceptional through mindfulness.