Yesterday I read an article all about James Turrell’s Skyspace projects. For those who’re unfamiliar with Turrell’s work – he’s an artist whose medium of choice is the sky.
James builds architectural wonders that harness light and the sky to create one of a kind experiences. The structures he builds frame a portion of the sky, but remain minimal otherwise, as simple seating areas with atmospheric lighting. Still, when I delved further into his works, every person speaking of them made the point that the experience had moved them. James’s portion of the sky had managed to hold people’s attention for hours.
But it’s the same sky… right?
That’s not to belittle guys like James, quite the opposite – I think the world needs more people like James. People who see beauty in the mundane.
I was once your typical walk-with-your-head-down-at-100mph type, wanting to get to every destination in record time and generally get every act of life over and done with. But there were rare days when I’d walk home and find such a rich, deep peace in the movement of the world around me and the simple act of moving through it, absorbing every sound, smell and sight that I knew my day to day self was missing out on something and widely out of touch. So I’ve spent the last year learning how to switch on the cruise control, pull over to appreciate the view and really experience this life around me. The world seemed so much more inviting, motivating and less stressful when I actually took the time to look at it. Here’s how I did it.
1. Learn to accept what is
A lot can be said for a positive mindset. You know those days when you wake up late and it seems like everything is purposefully getting in your way? Those days tend to go from bad to worse. Why? Usually, because you’re subconsciously willing them to. When we get caught up in bad thought spirals, any small detail we can add to the pile of reasons why we’re allowed to be in a bad mood is grabbed with both hands.
Of course, try your best to make up the lost time, but you’re now going to be late – stressed or not. If you can accept that fact early on you’ll turn up a lot happier, a lot less stressed and hopefully with your jumper on the right way round. If you’re stressed, manic and rushing, a backwards jumper will be the least of your worries.
I noticed, a while back, that if I was ever running late (or even, had a minor possibility of running late), I’d obsessively check the time and get extremely short-tempered with anyone I was around. Similarly, when people turned up late or delayed plans, instead of accepting it and doing something to pass the time I’d find myself angry and pacing, spinning myself into an even more frustrated spiral. Did this make anything happen quicker? Of course not – it just allowed me to validate being stressy and push the blame of my mood anywhere but on myself.
So, with a lot of practice and patience, I taught myself acceptance and patience. I tried my best to be on time, but when it was too late or out of my hands, I’d let the situation take me, knowing my bus would arrive when it arrived, my friend would be ready as soon as they could be, and no amount of frustration or stress would make anybody go any faster.
Worrying causes you to suffer twice, so put your stress in the passenger seat. I’ve learnt to treat my worries like a fearful child, “I understand why you’re worried right now, but this is the situation we’re in so let’s try and make the most of it, okay?”. Don’t shh or belittle your fearful self (it’s only trying to protect you, afterall), be kind and compassionate, without letting the kid drive.
2. Wear those rose-coloured glasses
If you ever watched Codename: Kids Next Door as a kid, you might recall a particularly hard-hitting episode where Numbuh 1 gets hit with an ageing device. The whole show is centred around a group of kids acting as a secret agency that fights against adults, adulthood and all the stereotypes that come with it, so needless to say, this hits Numbuh 1 pretty hard, turning him into a grouchy, disinterested shadow of his younger self. His friends fight to try and revert his age, but in the end, they realise that it’s his perspective, more than anything that’s changed. “It’s not your age that’s changed, Mr Uno, it’s you.”
The long-winded point I’m trying to make is that what we see as good and bad isn’t dependent on intrinsic value, but on the perspective we see it through. That awe, curiosity and love we had for everything as children is still very much possible as adults, we often just learn it away, to become overly rational, irritable, more expectant and less satisfied.
Say you move to a new city. The first week, you’ll take note of all the exciting things you discover – the height of the buildings, a new coffee shop, the bustle of unfamiliar faces. Week two might be the same. But two months in, you’re walking, head down, barely tasting the coffee you’re drinking and cursing every stranger who obstructs your path.
Are things only exciting when they’re new? Isn’t there always something new to discover?
It’s a pretty big miracle this is all here at all, so make it your mission to keep discovering: take new routes to work, try new coffee shops, meet new people, seek new discoveries. And of course, remember to make a conscious effort to appreciate the things that now seem familiar (I’ve done a whole blog on the subject – check it out!).
3. Pay attention
Take a minute to look at the sky. Appreciate that it happens to be such a pretty blue and remember just how big everything is. Remind yourself that you’re alive. Take pictures and notes of things that make you smile. Challenge yourself. Be curious about the world. Journal about your day LINK, noting every detail you can. Point details out to whoever you’re with. It might feel a little forced at first, but the more you try and really see the world around you, the easier it’ll become.
I doubt you particularly dislike the sky. I’m sure if someone pointed out the stars on a clear night, you’d stare in a state of wonder. But how many times a day do you usually look there? Is the sky only beautiful when someone directs your attention to it?
In a recent interview I saw with David Attenborough, Jonathan Ross mentioned space exploration and Attenborough in so many words, said that he wasn’t particularly interested in it and asked how could he be, with a planet this rich and exciting? As much as I love space, it’s a pretty good point.
I’m a firm believer that things are what you make of them. Situations, relationships, settings, objects, feelings. You have complete control – not always over what happens, but certainty the severity of the direction it takes. So take the time to love the world and see it for the amazing, rich place it is.
Suggested for you: How to Appreciate the Little Things in Life in 3 Steps
4. Quit the comparison game
“I’d rather be on some beach in Tahiti”, well, a lot of us probably would, but would the charm of Tahiti’s beaches wash away as our hypothetical city did? Being on a tropical beach has a time and a place. Certainly, make the most of a tropical break and limitless mojitos. But don’t watch life pass you by, lost in an endless dream of palm trees you never reach.
Home isn’t meant to be a tropical beach, and even if it was, you’d soon be dreaming of vacationing in the city. Home is, however, a refuge after a long day. It’ll be cosy during a thunderstorm. It will fill you with comfort after a vacation. It will support and protect the people you love. It will be a place of memories and time. Just like a relationship, it’ll never work if you’re dreaming of someone else. Loving something long-term takes consistent effort. Every place has its charm, if only you stop comparing it to Tahiti.
So there you have it, my mindset mocktail for realising and appreciating the beauty in the mundane. I hope these are helpful, I’d love to see more people experience and really enjoy their life – it’s what we’re all here for, right?
Take the day. Love, Ella-Rose xx