The One Place You Must See Before You Die

Rustic Idyll

Forget 1001 historic sites/gardens/natural wonders/architectural feats you must see before you die.  I’ll tell you the one thing that you really must see before you leave this world  for the next – the here and now.

I’m not talking here of a cursory glance around, so you can check it off that mental list of things seen and done.  To my mind, unless you give yourself completely over to experiencing the moment, this exact one happening right now, it won’t matter if you’re seated outside the Taj Mahal, touring the pyramids by camel, standing at the viewpoint overlooking the steep cliffs of the Grand Canyon or climbing the many steps ascending the Eiffel Tower.  To fully experience life, it must be lived, not measured, evaluated and checked.

Here’s a quick exercise for you to try:

  1. Walk for no more than 5 mins from where you are sitting now – this may take you to your living room, your garden, a local park etc. – and bring with you a notebook, a pen and your camera.
  2. Find a good (safe!) place to sit, and close your eyes for a few minutes and just breathe.  Allow your body to relax and your mind to unwind.  Push to one side all those concerns about what you still have to do today,  the money worries, the work woes.  They’ll all still be there when we’re finished, so they can be ignored for the time being.
  3. Still with your eyes closed, give over to your senses.  Feel the grass tickle your fingers.  Smell the honey-scented blooms.  Hear the sweet chirp of the birds.  Of course, depending on where you chose your spot to sit, your senses may convey something entirely different from that which I’ve described here.  The important thing is to give yourself over to it and to experience it for what it is.
  4. Now, open your eyes, and look around you.  Take in the whole of the sight, allowing your eyes to drink in the unique beauty of what surrounds you.  You may be viewing tall oaks, rolling grassy hillocks, colourful flowerbeds, or, if you stayed inside, maybe you’re viewing overfilled bookcases, softly draping curtains, and finely grained floorboards.  Whatever the sight, accept and appreciate it, without longing that you were somewhere else entirely.
  5. After absorbing the bigger picture, it’s now time to zero in on the details.  Pick up your camera and, turning on your macro setting, get up close to your subjects and start capturing the intimate curves of the petals, the gradation of colour in the leaves, the textured grain of the wood.  Try new angles, new perspectives, new takes on the familiar.  Make the known, new, fresh and strange.
  6. Time to uncap the pen and open the notebook.  Find a fresh page and begin to write about what you’ve experienced since you first sat in that spot 5 mins walk away.  Remember to try and capture the sensual experience of what you felt, heard, and smelled as well as the sights you saw and photographed, and really try to use as descriptive language as you can.  Write as truthfully and as mindfully as you can – try and express the truth of the moment to the best of your ability. Wax lyrical!
  7. Optional: What I do following this exercise is, I upload my photographs, cropping and editing them to make them more clearly represent my perspective, and then create a post combining my words and images.  A record of that time and place to be shared and experienced by all who come across it.

I think you’ll find that if you follow these steps, you’ll have see the one place you ‘must see’ before you die – the present moment.  But do you know what the great thing is?  Life is just full of these moments!

I’m reminded of this wonderful quote which my mum used to keep on her fridge:

Oh, I’ve had my moments, and if I had my life to live over, I’d have more of them in fact I’d have nothing else, just moments, one after another instead of living so many years ahead each day.

Nadine Stair age 85 in Spilling Open: The Art of Becoming Yourself by Sabrina Ward Harrison

I couldn’t have said it better myself :-)

If you do decide to give the exercise a go, why not report back here with how you got on?  I’ll be posting about mine tomorrow!  If you decided to take the option of blogging about it, leave the link so we can all go and share in your experience of a moment.  Also, you could contribute one of your photos from the exercise to the Photography Less Ordinary time capsule. If you’re planning to do so though, you’ll need to do it today, as the deadline for entries is midnight (your time) tonight!

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June 4, 2008. Creativity, Environment, Inspiration.

18 Comments

  1. Amy replied:

    What a beautiful exercise. I did a smaller version of this one day while I was outside with the kids. I had the macro setting on our camera and I took pictures of our tulips and the bushes outside. As I was editing them, my husband asked where I had been. I told him that I had been in our front yard :) I think we have a tendency to overlook all the beauty because we are always focusing on what we need to do in our yard, instead of what has already been done.

    Great reminder!

  2. mrschili replied:

    This is a very yogic exercise. The trick is to be able to STAY aware of where we are right here, right now and not have to make special plans to pay attention. I’m working on it, little by little..

  3. Robert Hruzek replied:

    Excellent post, Amy! However, being who I am, I’d add one further step: Of all the things you’ve discovered, what did you learn from it?

    There are lessons to be learned all around us, if we’ll only open our eyes and see! Everything has a story to tell. What do they tell you?

    Cheers!

  4. Dianne Murphy-Rodgers replied:

    What a lovely post, Amy and a great exercise to try!

    I agree with mrschili, it’s not at all easy to STAY aware. But revelling in our senses is a great way to focus on the moment. And I have found using my camera has changed my perspective on a lot of things, it makes me actively look for the intricate details of beauty all around me … the less ordinary life is an amazing place to be, thank you for your inspiration, Amy!

    I love the quote from Nadine Stair … may your day be filled with beautiful moments!

    :o)

  5. Brett Legree replied:

    What a nice post, Amy. I’ve recently had a moment like that, a few weeks ago when I took my kids for a walk to a local playground. It was just the five of us (Mom was having a nap), and the wind. I sat at a picnic table and felt the wind. Listened to the kids play.

    Took off my sandals and felt the grass. Wrote in my journal.

    I experience something like that when I run (I run near-barefoot with my funny shoes). I don’t know how to explain it, I’m just connected with life at that very moment. I can feel everything and think very clearly. That’s when some of my best ideas come to me, and when I get home, I write.

    I’m going to do this again soon – just go and sit.

    -Brett

  6. SteamyKitchen replied:

    wonderful post! my life is usually going at 12000 miles per hour and I’ve got to slow down….

  7. Leslie replied:

    Great ideas and wonderful thoughts to ponder. Thank you for sharing this exercise.

  8. LivSimpl replied:

    Beautiful post! I’m going to have to remember to do that.

    Also, I’d suggest doing the same thing when you’re around people you love. Stop and watch them and appreciate them for who they are and remember all the things you love about them.

    http://www.LivSimpl.com

  9. diane replied:

    Amy,

    I enjoy your posts & pictures so much – I apologize for hurling through life without stopping to give recognition for pleasure received.

    Today was spent at home, catching up on projects. A new online friend of mine described her “perfect” peanut butter sandwich (a staple of school lunches in the U.S. and the ultimate comfort food) and I took the opportunity to assemble the ingredients and savor the taste of childhood. Bliss.

    http://tinyurl.com/5e7gh9

  10. Rosa Say replied:

    This is a wonderful exercise for journaling Amy, even if one decides that some of what tumbles within their spirit spilling is too personal for a blog post. It could also prove to be perfect for a conversation you commit to having with someone: perhaps a loved one as LivSimpl suggests. Mahalo for sharing this with us in that evocative way you have such heart for Amy.

  11. The Passing of a Moment « Lives Less Ordinary replied:

    [...] writing out the exercise in yesterday’s post, I grabbed my favourite red fleecy blanket and went outside to sit on the lawn in my back garden.  [...]

  12. amypalko replied:

    It is amazing what we can find in our own gardens, isn’t it, Amy?

    I think maintaining that level of awareness, Mrschili, is the work of a lifetime. The very best of luck on your journey, my friend :-)

    I think you’re spot on, Robert! I did learn something, and I’ve written about it in today’s post.

    It’s a great quote, isn’t it, Dianne? One of my favourites :-)

    I’ve seen your funny shoes, Brett! I would imagine that they would connect you to the ground beneath your feet in a way a pair of regular trainers just couldn’t.

    It’s good to slow down, Steamy Kitchen :-)

    You are most welcome, Leslie. I hope you enjoy trying it out!

    That’s a beautiful suggestion, Livsimpl. Thank you so much for sharing it :-)

    That looks like a delicious sandwich, Diane. I would love to have shared one with you :-)

    I think you’re quite right, Rosa, that this may prove too personal an exercise for some to feel comfortable about blogging it. But as a personal journaling exercise, I think the results could be really fruitful.

  13. Talking Story with Say Leadership Coaching replied:

    Kēia Manawa, Ishly and the Hibiscus Cocktail…

    Just talking story… about the practice of being fully present. We hear most coaching about being “fully present” in regard to giving our full attention to other people. In conversation, with Kuleana (our responsibilities), as focus and intention …

  14. Living in the present - it’s what we do « Heroes Not Zombies replied:

    [...] and becoming aware of what I’m hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling or touching. Amy, at livelessordinary, has written beautifully about just that way of living in the [...]

  15. Naveen Bachwani replied:

    What a well-written post!

    And, such a beautiful collection of photographs and interesting thoughts, too. Certainly helps in appreciating the “here and now”…

    Keep up the good work, Amy.

  16. Amy Palko replied:

    Solitude and relief. The entire exercise is not possible within my work day so I gave my self 2 minutes. I am well aware of the concept and appreciate the reminder. Cool name by the way!

  17. amypalko replied:

    Thanks Naveen! I will do :-)

    2 minutes is most certainly better than nothing, Amy! Oh, and yes, a very cool name indeed ;-)

  18. Tolo replied:

    I am in the process of a 45 day personal silent retreat at my home on the Pacific in Costa Rica. I found this Blog totally by accident (as if there were any). I just created my blog site yesterday to inspire myself and others to live in the Present Moment and to live life from a spiritually creative standpoint. What a confirmation for me to share with others as you have so beautifully done. I have the opportunity to do this practice all day long. And guess what it has been the theme of my silence so far. Another confirmation! I am on day 27 and it is Bliss so far. All day long I practice being present to what is. It registers very quickly when I am failing at this task. My whole mood chances. I will visit your site regularly.Thanks, Tolo

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