A few days ago I was sitting outside with nothing much to do and nowhere urgent to be.

The kind of moment I love best!

And as I sat on a park bench I recalled some advice that I once read in a wonderful (and rare) book called, “The Importance Of Living”.

In that book there’s a line of thinking that has echoed within me for a good 25 years and whenever I recall it to my mind it causes me to pause and enjoy the ‘little things’.

I’m paraphrasing now but the advice is this: ‘If you have eyes that see and ears that hear, you’ll never need to leave your backyard to be amazed.”

First, I don’t think this advice is to be taken literally. At least I hope not.

Of COURSE you should LEAVE your backyard and explore the world. How else can you get beyond your own limitations? How else can see yourself in context; understand your cultural and social milieu? The world is there to be experienced, learn from and be inspired by.

The advice is, I think, to make sure that you take the time to switch on your senses and notice!

To be able to smell fragrance in the air. To hear the sounds around you. To feel the play of air on your skin or your weight on a chair. To be able to look at the same thing, the same tree, the same street, the same person or the same scenery that you’ve seen a thousand times before and notice something different!

There is DIFFERENCE to be seen.

You see, noticing is a skill!

Don’t think so?

Think of the task of a sonographer: a person who specialises in the use of ultrasonic imaging devices to produce diagnostic images, scans and videos of our anatomy.

Long before our son was born we attended a clinic for an ultrasound. A device was lubricated and deftly applied to my wife’s belly. And up on the TV screen appeared …

“There! You see the spine? Here is the jaw. Oh it’s very healthy! Would you like to know the gender? It’s a boy!”

What! You see ALL OF THAT!?

The ability of the sonographer is truly stunning. Where I see a black cat playing with another black cat at night during a snowstorm, he sees the gender of our soon to be born son!

The reality here is that they sonographer has been carefully trained in what can be seen.

To the sonographer, the confusing ever shifting snowstorm that I see playing out on the screen is positively teeming with useful information.

There is a life lesson here.

What we see and perceive in the world is as much dependent on what CAN be seen with our apparatus of perception as what you’re TRAINED to see.

Each of us, no matter how we live, are perpetually immersed in a fast-moving stream of information. From this mass of available data, and just to be able to function, we must determine what is relevant and what is not.

Determining the relevance of data is in part determined by our proprieties at any given time and what we have learned to perceive.

But it’s more complicated than this.

This endless process of choosing relevant data comes at a cost. Energy is expended in the process and it is not an infinite resource. We have limited attentional resources and when those resources are expended, we actually miss stuff!

It is called an ‘attentional blink’. It’s a gap in perception that happens when we shift focus from one thing to another in rapid succession.

One explanation of the attentional blink phenomenon is that the mental energy reserved to shift focus seamlessly from one target of perception to the next needs time to recharge. A bit like “like a camera flash with rapid-fire photos.”

And those with weaker “batteries” miss more!

Get this, people who meditate. People who purposefully train and engage their apparatus of perception. Those people have faster charging “batteries” and perform better on the tests for attentional blink.

In short, they notice more because they practice noticing more!

If you’re the kind of person motivated enough to work on your physical fitness then you might also be the kind of person keen to ensure that ALL OF YOU is getting the workout you need.

And exercising ALL OF YOU means exercising a body with SENSES!

And it’s easy! Simply sitting still and breathing slowly from your diagram and tuning in to just one of your senses for 1minute and 30 seconds, every day, will have a wonderful effect on your capacity to NOTICE.

NOTICING is no small matter. It will be NOTICING, and not the size of your bicep, that will be the ABILITY to alert you to take a necessary action (using you bulging biceps) that might save your life or the life of another.


Damien Norris is the founder and senior whole-body movement and lifestyle coach at The Wilding Project (LINK), Perth Western Australia.

Recently featured in TEDxPerth (LINK), Damien teaches children, young people, adults and seniors how to move and live a full life!

Olympic Fun & Fitness and The Wilding Project like Rewilding is dedicated to a movement rich life. Programs like Gymnastics, GymFIT, FootyEDGE, Parkour, Workplace Athletes, ActiveAgers and more all follow a simple philosophy, “Learn to move well and then never stop.”

Damien Norris