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.