How to stimulate your mind, see the world more fully.

Leaf on bark.
Leaf on bark.

Life can be very busy.  Some days go by in a blur.  So I often don’t have time to fully appreciate the enormous, wonderful world that surrounds me.

That’s one reason why I love to walk, haul my camera around, and write.

Unfortunately, one must constantly attend to life’s small stuff. You know–daily business, errands, dull routines. But I’ve learned that I can always–no matter where I am or what I’m doing–open myself to new wonder. Here are a few unusual mental exercises. They help to stimulate your mind, so that you can see the world more fully.

1. Name every object you see.

That’s right! As you go about during an ordinary day, find the word or words that describe every object you happen to see. In your mind, name everything that exists in front of your eyes. Add descriptive adjectives and adverbs. You’ll see more than you did before, and perhaps in a new light. You’ll have greater awareness of the world around you, even the small details.

2. Search for objects of a specific color.

Select a random color. Then as you move through your day, consciously search your surroundings for ordinary objects of that color. Do this and you’ll become acutely aware of the appearance of things–not just their color. You’ll appreciate the world’s richness and innate beauty. You’ll see how all things fit together. Try it!

3. Search the horizon, and imagine what’s beyond it.

From time to time, when outdoors, focus your eyes on the horizon. What can you see there? Can you imagine what probably (or possibly) lies just beyond the horizon? What do you think is going on in that unseen place? Or better yet, on a pitch black night look up at the stars. What is going on there?

This exercise broadens your view of the universe and helps you grasp its entirety with your mind. That is–to the extent we humans can grasp such immensity!

4. Examine the world inches from your eyes.

Standing next to something? Put your nose right up close and examine it! Do you find yourself in a boring old office building’s lobby that has a painting on a wall? Look at the brush strokes! Waiting on a sidewalk under an ordinary tree? Look closely at the bark or the leaves!

Closely examine those things that happen to be nearby. Analyze precisely.  Renew your wonder. Perhaps pretend you’re a giant, surveying a fascinating, miniature world. Because in a sense, we all ARE giants–when the mind is stimulated, curious and growing.

5. Imagine the world in the future, or in the past.

Where are you? Slowly turn to look all around. Now imagine your immediate surroundings in the near or distant past, or in the near or distant future.

San Diego, the bustling place I call home, is relatively new compared to most cities. A couple hundred years ago–which isn’t long at all–Southern California was essentially a wilderness. So it’s interesting to imagine San Diego with no buildings, no streets, almost no sign of human life. Just canyons and hills, covered with sagebrush and dry chaparral.

How did my growing city appear a hundred years ago? Fifty years ago? And why do things appear as they do today? How might things change tomorrow? A hundred years from now? A thousand years from now? A million years from now?

This unusual mental exercise helps you to appreciate the world’s fullness in both space and time. And it stimulates your imagination!

6. Imagine people around you at different stages in life.

You and I are alike in many ways. Living life, by definition, is all that we can know. By observing the people around you more fully, perhaps you can better understand humanity and yourself.

Imagine how strangers around you might physically appear at different stages of life. Do you see an elderly person? Try to imagine how they looked when they were a child. Do you see a child? Imagine how they’ll appear when they grow old.

This is an old trick many writers use when creating a character sketch. It really makes the observer think.  It puts our short lives in perspective!

7. Ask yourself what a nearby person will do next.

Here’s another clever trick. Do you see a stranger nearby? Watch them for a bit from the corner of your eye. What do you think they’ll do next? Then afterward, ask yourself why your guess was right or wrong.

By gaining insights into human behavior, you’ll better appreciate the paths and turns of other minds. And you’ll see why humans have fashioned their world as it is. For better or worse.

And, of course, you’ll learn something about your own inclinations and perceptions.

8. Understand what people are thinking.

One more mental exercise that anyone can try. This is quite possibly the most difficult. Imagine or deduce what a nearby person is thinking. Can you see their thoughts in their eyes? In their gestures? In their actions?

How do you think they see the world?

Do you like to read short pieces of thought-provoking fiction? You might enjoy checking out Short Stories by Richard.

When all seems lost and life feels hopeless.

Sheila's Perfume
One of countless flowers.

When all seems lost and life feels hopeless…

find a purpose.

Find a purpose that is larger than your trouble.

Dedicate each day to that purpose, that great good.

Uplift others. Propagate love. Oppose what is wrong. Discover truth. Create new beauty. Voice what is worthy. Share your gifts. Send ripples of generosity into the future. Do an unselfish thing.


Once your purpose is found, think of little else.

You will gain everything.

To enjoy future posts, you can “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook. or follow me on Twitter.

Infinite words but just one small life.

Sailboats moored near Shelter Island, downtown San Diego skyline in the background.
Sailboats moored near Shelter Island, downtown San Diego in the background.

Anyone who tries to write soon realizes a daunting truth. There are countless possible stories to tell, and numberless ways to tell each one. Infinity multiplied by infinity amounts to a whole lot of indecision!

Last weekend I stood on a patch of beach on Shelter Island. A sailboat moored nearby fascinated my eye, and I puzzled over its profound complexity for several minutes. How could I accurately paint that sailboat with words? How could I phrase the most perfect description? Is it even possible? With a million words is it possible?

As I watched the bobbing boat and struggled to sequence potent adjectives, a sudden thought shook me: Writing’s purpose, like art’s purpose, isn’t to replicate the world. It’s to stretch our minds. That is all.

Words are limitless. As limitless as the universe. They allow us to travel anywhere, in any direction.

A few well-directed words can focus our minds (for a moment) on overlooked things; they can help us see vague things more vividly. Words can seek and memorialize those things that seem important. Words tossed about can provoke hidden feeling and allow us to draw nearer to others. Words, when magical, can help us to discern whispers of meaning in the echoing vastness around us.

Our lives are finite. But the infinity that is contained in words can expand our lives. That is their purpose.

To enjoy future posts, you can “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

Writing a blog opens up an amazing world.

Birds take flight above palm trees in downtown San Diego.
Birds take flight above palm trees in downtown San Diego.

This is my 500th post. I can’t believe it.

When I started writing this blog on a lark about a year and a half ago, it was a puny little creation, and I hadn’t a clue where it would take me. Alas, after many hours pounding away at the old keyboard, I haven’t earned one thin dime. But that’s perfectly fine. The riches I’ve received are immaterial, and far greater.

Writing a blog–one that involves photography in particular–opens your eyes, enhances your appreciation of all that is around you. To chronicle a walk through this world, one must carefully experience each step and turn curious eyes everywhere. One must note light, depth, and the color of things. One must listen to others. If I hadn’t begun to meander about San Diego purposefully, searching for “cool” material, I might never have seen some hidden rainbows. Or a small bit of street art. Or dogs surf.

Writing a blog encourages creativity. It’s casual and conversational. There’s no need to fret too much about editing. Readers are just friends. So you can yap freely and let the mind flow. I’ve always been a fan of science fiction writer Ray Bradbury. His great book Zen in the Art of Writing talks about the power of just letting thoughts flow, uninhibited, like gushing water from a wildly whipping dangerously uncontrolled hose. That water will irrigate one’s life, and the lives of others who are splashed.

Writing a blog leads the author to be more honest. More understanding. More compassionate. More vulnerable. Writing a blog, giving birth to a few silly words, expands the soul.

Thanks for coming along on my walks!

Where will I go today? I have a bit of an idea, but I’m not certain. Time propels us forward into the unknown. If you’d like, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr!