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The One Thing Mindful Readers Do Differently

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

Cultivating Mindfulness as a Reader

It was William Blake who wrote in a poem:

“To see a world in a grain of sand,”

This insists on the immediacy of the present moment, the ability to notice the colours, textures, and shapes of living. Pair this with Marcel Proust and you have the ideal recipe for developing the habit of noticing:

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

It’s easier to think that being observant is an innate trait, like the sound of your voice. It’s also easier to believe that only some of us are born with an acute sense of awareness of the world.

But that’s not true.

Readers notice everything as a habit, which is not a difficult habit to form. Cultivating mindfulness as a reader requires only a beginning.

Fortunately, there is no formulaic approach to cultivating the habit of noticing. And even if there were one, the formula would reveal itself to you in the process – which requires a start.

Outside of the realm of reading, the act of noticing can be the bridge that connects what we do every day to how we do it.

Mindful readers notice the colour of their first cup of coffee (or tea) every morning. They see the contrast of the cover of a book kept on a dark wooden table. They notice the unusual, the ordinary, and the everyday.

What you observe you can note down in a journal, record as a voice message, but keep it private; translate the transmissions of the mind into words that map more than just your physical presence in the world.

Notice often and you’ll inevitably hoard a library of observations – all authored by you.

It matters because this is where the reader in you thrives. Noticing everything is to notice the sameness and distinctness of everything. You can translate this into finding the threads that tie back to a character you strongly identify with or find most or least interesting.

When your thoughts match up to the thoughts of a writer whose book you’re reading, even by a fraction, it points to the universality of human experiences; a compendium of feelings, thoughts, and emotions buoyed by how an individual integrates into and copes with reality.

Simone Weil wrote:

“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”

Extending attention to detail into the very textures of life and living is perhaps the one thing that readers do well.

And you don’t need a fancy notebook or pen to get started.

The best things in life are those that come in their simplest and barest forms – the empty pages of a notebook you thought you needed a few months ago, the last few blank pages of your favourite novel, or the free notes or voice recording app on your phone.

By turning the gaze inward, crafting the materiality of living, you can explore the profound connection between the spirit and substance of things and stories… and gradually of your own self.

1 Comment

Jun 28, 2023

Beautifully articulated. A short but profound reading experience.

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