In 1928 a bacteriologist at St. Mary’s Hospital in London called Alexander Fleming returned from holiday, and by chance, noticed that that some mould on a petri dish had stopped the bacteria growing. This eventually led to the development of Penicillium, which transformed medicine.
Have you ever lost your keys in the house? You know you used them to open the front door; your phone was ringing, and you remember sitting down and having a conversation. But now you need to go out again and the keys have disappeared. You must have put them down somewhere… The chances are that you’ve done something like this or know someone who does. When an important object like a set of keys, a phone, or a purse mysteriously vanishes, it was generally placed somewhere by someone who failed to notice what they were doing in the moment. We’d like to think that we’re perceptive individuals and notice most things. The truth is that there are many subtle barriers to really noticing in the moment.
For much of our lives, it’s very easy to take the world around us for granted. We get caught up in activity, including our thoughts, are not always aware and alert, and often fail to notice and appreciate how rich and wonderful the world around us really is.
Noticing means seeing, taking note of perceiving. Noticing is where we choose to place our attention when we connect our attention to our awareness. Noticing connects us with reality, which can lead to insights and understanding. When we really notice we become the active, rather than passive, witness of our experience.
So, what are the barriers to noticing? The first is that we’re creatures of habit, some that serve us and some that don’t. Habits are embedded routines that work outside our awareness. The human brain uses up to 20% of the body’s total energy, more than any other organ, so it makes sense to take shortcuts. For instance, not fully processing the familiar, filtering out what’s not important, and using assumptions. A good example is that our visual field is only really focussed on the centre of our eye, while everything else is relatively blurred in the periphery.