“Life is a series of thousands of tiny miracles. Notice them.”Mike Greenberg
Although I had not intended to write a book when I went to India, I found that while travelling around, I was taking notes about the minutiae of everyday life. Often it was the smallest of details that I found the most fascinating. People will always ask you about the Taj Mahal, yet India is full of awe-inspiring wonders. I was captivated by the essence of the place and its people and my senses were constantly heightened by the colours, sounds, aromas and tastes. The practice of namaste encapsulates the essence of what I love about India. Without making physical contact, our souls connect.
I bow to the Divine within you and you bow to the Divine within me.
After I wrote my book, Chasing Marigolds and met up with some of the people who had shared my tour, it was interesting to hear their feedback. In my recording of daily happenings in India I included many of the people on my tour as characters in my book. They were amazed that I had remembered so many details and things that people had said to me.
When we reminisced about events and details of our trip, my friends commented that while they had a rough memory of the places we had visited, they had not noticed the smaller details that I had written about. One friend commented, “You were obviously paying more attention and seeing things that we weren’t.”
After reading Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way I was interested in her comments about paying attention to detail. She writes that “survival lies in sanity and sanity lies in paying attention”. She mentions how her grandmother used to write letters about her difficult life, yet life through her eyes was a series of small miracles. “Dad’s cough is getting worse, we have lost the house…but the tiger lilies are blooming, the lizard has found that spot of sun, the roses are holding despite the heat.”
Julia also writes that the quality of one’s life is in proportion to the capacity for delight. This is the gift of paying attention.
It reminded me of my own mother who had also led a hard life but was able to emphasize tiny delights and miracles. What she lacked in luxuries, she made up for with her optimism and enthusiasm. Although she didn’t own a car, she taught us that there were many pleasures in walking. Picking up a gumnut, she would remove its lid to reveal its hidden treasures inside. She also showed us how to crush leaves to inhale the heady scent of eucalyptus. While we learned to fashion certain fronds into swords, the smaller nuts we threaded into necklaces. This was my first lesson in paying attention to detail and the beginning of my appreciation of nature.
My mother was always making do with what she had but convinced us that it was enough. She also did it in such a way that it appeared pleasurable. There is a Hindi word, jugaad, which loosely translates into English as “making do with what little one has”.
In India I saw many examples of jugaad. I have a memory of a young woman draped in a gold trimmed purple sari sitting on the ground making chapattis. Kneading love into the dough, she flattened the small balls with the heel of her hand on a board resting on her lap. While the chapattis cooked on a basic concrete slab, she pushed one tiny branch into the fire at various intervals, poking the hot coals. It was such a minimal fire burning only a small amount of fuel, yet it was enough for the purpose she desired.
In another corner, there were tables set up with an impressive buffet assortment of tasty Indian dishes. Yet it was this basic concrete slab positioned over a tiny fire where my attention was focused.
Many years ago, when I was searching for miracles in life, I discovered that it is necessary to look for the tiniest ones first. If we are waiting for the big miracles, we will miss out on the many tiny delights which bring us the greatest joy. Through paying attention, we feel connected to all around us. We feel a sense of delight in sunsets, rainbows, a tiny drop of rain, a flower about to bloom and a pelican gliding in to land.
Paying attention to detail is an act of connection. It is also a form of healing for we will never feel unutterably alone if we are paying attention to people and things around us.