Art in Action: 15 Ways to Decode the Details

art in action decoding details 020216Art in Action is a weekly post: a simple, practical guide to applying the ideas and principles in the Focus Pocus posts to your body and life. As always, I love to hear from you about how you use them and how you translate the ideas into action.

What with full schedules and busy-ness abounding, it’s no wonder that we find ourselves skimming and glancing and rushing through our days. And yet, there is magic in paying attention to the details, decoding what’s happening below the surface. Whether it’s investigating that ache in your knee more carefully, or listening to your friend’s story about her boss more deeply, or seeing that a teeny weeny crocus came up when the snow melted, deepening connection by paying attention to details enriches our hours.

Here are 15 ways to use your senses to decode the details and deepen your connection to yourself, others, and the world.

Look longer

1. Instead of just glancing at yourself in the mirror, take a moment to breathe in your own image. After you brush teeth and manipulate hair and wash what needs washing, look in the mirror and send yourself off with some kindness. See yourself for the wonder you are.

2. When having a conversation with someone, whether it’s your partner or a police officer or your postal carrier, really look at them. See below the surface to a person with a life full of joy and struggle, who wants to be happy (just like you).

3. Between your door and your car (or your bike) notice the details of your most familiar surroundings. Open your eyes to the room you spend the most time in: what’s something you haven’t looked at in a while? Soak it in.

Breathe and smell the moment

4. Smell is a sensation that we often overlook but it’s a powerful connector to emotion and memory. Take some deep breaths and notice even subtle smells around you.

5. This may sound strange, but take a big sniff of someone you love. A little nutty, perhaps, but have you ever been separated from someone and smelled their favorite clothes or pillow and felt connected to them? Everyone you know has their own unique fragrance. Breathe it in and feel the connection.

6. Seek out the smells around you: coffee brewing or bread baking or soil warming or fire burning. Notice what you notice about how you feel when you smell different smells.

Savor the flavor

7. Swallow and taste the moment. Take a sip of water and notice the taste of it.

8. Kiss someone you love…like you mean it.

9. Seek out unusual or unexpected or exciting flavors. Have grapefruit for breakfast or curry for lunch or fennel with dinner. Get curious about the tastes you can taste. (Research shows that the tastier your food is, the less you’ll eat.)

Feel with the Skin You’re In

10. Your skin offers a huge amount of information about your environment, so right now, really feel whatever you’re touching. Notice your socks (or shoes or whatever your sweet feet are touching), the feel of your clothes and jewelry, the screen on your phone. Notice temperature, texture and weight as you receive it through your skin.

11. When you shake hands with a colleague or hug your child or pet a cat, feel the physical connection and the details of the touch. Are their hands cold or callused? Is your kid antsy or calm? Has your pet been snoozing in the sun or romping in the cold?

12. Pay closer attention to the things you touch the most: your steering wheel, your coffee cup, your silverware or your computer. Notice the details of what they feel like in your hands.

Listen with Curiosity

13. Listen to your own voice. Call your own number, listen to your voicemail and hear the voice you share with the world.

14. When you’re having a conversation, listen deeply to the quality of the other’s voice. Do they speak quickly or slowly, to they enunciate or blend their words, do they have an accent?

15. Listen to music you don’t usually listen to. Ask a friend or your teenager what music they like and listen with curiosity.


BONUS: Do you have a voice in your head that tells you not to do anything creative or different or risky? Of course you do, we all do. Here’s an essay I wrote (and illustrated) in Street Light Magazine about making friends with mine.

  1. Melissa Simmons said:

    OH SUSAN this is absolutely beautiful! I do so very many of these things – all except the FIRST … I will add that to my list of February challenges. I loved the meditation with Sharon last evening. Thank you for your eloquent writing–reminders to take in the details of our world.

    Much love, M

    On Tue, Feb 2, 2016 at 1:38 PM, Focus Pocus wrote:

    > Susan McCulley posted: “Art in Action is a weekly post: a simple, > practical guide to applying the ideas and principles in the Focus Pocus > posts to your body and life. As always, I love to hear from you about how > you use them and how you translate the ideas into action. What w” >

    • Yes. The first. See yourself for the wonder that you are. Please. It’s so important. Love you, yoga mama. ❤

  2. Madeline said:

    This is so lovely. Thank you for the wonderful reminders 🙂

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