Appreciating and Learning Through Life


orange tulip-Leigh Kendell

UT Dallas’ Center for BrainHealth has lots of news for us to absorb. First:

We start to see cognitive decline during the 40s because we accept mental slippage and boredom in our life and work. Rediscover and reflect on your passion to make sure it is integral to your brain activities.

They have also told us:

For people in their 50s, we tend to put our brain on automatic pilot and are slow to take on new challenges…You will feel the brain energized as you go from being a novice to an expert in an area of interest.

What do we learn from this information? It might not be necessary to sign up for a new class, but we should never stop learning. It will not only improve our brain health, but will enhance our lives in many other ways. This conclusion is similar to yet another lesson learned from mindfulness.

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, in his book Full Catastrophe Living, stresses the concept of having a beginner’s mind, an attitude where we begin to look at things around us as though for the first time…as though we were just that second learning and living the experience. Can you imagine examining routine things, things a part of our regular daily experience, as if experiencing them for the very first time?

  • The same breakfast that you eat every day would become a new experience when eaten more slowly, more carefully noticing the aroma from the food, the taste of each bite, how the food moved in your mouth each time you chewed, and how your throat moved when you were ready to swallow.
  • The route you take on a daily basis, whether to a job, school, or a carpool, would become a new adventure. The ride would be spent noticing the people who travel the same path, you would more rapidly notice trees, flowers, and other sights passed along the way, how the sun reflected off items in the environment, the voices heard, and sounds of movement at the beginning of each day, and again at the end.
  • The interactions you had with friends and family would be as though for the first time. Any upsets from the past, any thoughts from prior conversations or interactions, any old wounds…all gone. The kindnesses and open- mindedness would be the same as if meeting someone for the very first time; there would be no expectations for where the conversation might lead or who might say what.
  • You might take note of the patterns on pillows or sheets, furniture coverings in the den, your favorite chair, or decorative pieces on your tables or desk. Really taking the time to notice the feel, temperature, or fragrances might take you back to the times when they were originally purchased, and your thoughts from that time might be experienced all over again.

Sometimes it’s just so easy to take the gifts in our lives for granted. We get so used to seeing our surroundings that they almost become invisible. But to establish an attitude of gratitude, to really see and appreciate, we all need to cultivate a beginner’s brain, allowing ourselves to look at everything through a completely new lens, release any preconceived expectations, enjoy each new experience, and treat each encounter as a new learning, stopping to smell each rose along the way.

Dr W

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