How to Be Eccentric: Be Aware

Part of living an unconventional, or as I like to call it eccentric, life is to culture habits that stand out and shape your world view.  This is a mini-series on habits of eccentricity, the first is Awareness.

Be Aware

Awareness is imperative if you want to be eccentric.  Being aware of details others miss or pass over as commonplace gives you the advantage of seeing the world in broader perspective and sharper detail.

If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.

The Buddha

Be aware of details.

Make an effort to notice the little things that are overshadowed.

Think of it like cooking.  While the main ingredients are obvious, say chicken, rice and vegetables, what truly seasons the dish, what makes it stand out, are the pinches of spices and herbs.  Each little bit of rosemary, pepper or garlic fills out the experience of the meal.

Details in our environment or the details of a friends life are what gives fullness to our experience.  They add depth to our understanding and our relationships.

Be aware of difference.

Differences challenge our assumptions.  They expand our horizon of experience, broaden our perspective by contrasting the norm.  We often assume negatives from difference when it should be an opportunity to look for understanding.

Be open to difference in life and people.  Don’t overlay your expectations.  Noticing the differences from prior situations or acquaintances frees you from the burden of the past dictating your perceptions of the present.

As Albert Szent-Györgyi, discoverer of vitamin C, noted: genius is seeing what everyone else sees and thinking what no-one else has thought. Recognizing differences in the normal is how we can reshape our perspective of the world.

Be aware of minutiae.

When the train schedule actually reads 8:44am instead of 8:44pm and you miss the 8:30pm train and have to wait 45 minutes till the next train that one letter makes all the difference.

When that $1.99 8-piece chicken nugget deal isn’t actually the deal you think it is when a 5-piece chicken nugget costs $.99 (I noticed this on a Burger King menu once).

Minutiae are the typos that are missed when a writer rereads his work, the flipping of time from AM to PM, the misplaced apostrophe, the forks in the spoon drawer, and all the other little things that are seemingly insignificant.  Sometimes those minutiae make all the difference.

Be aware of everyday.

When the sun sets over the city, or when the smell of fresh cut grass permeates your office, or how milk swirls when poured into tea, these things give value to simple things and enrich our daily lives.

Taking the time to sit in quiet and observe the world as it is.  Tea ceremonies, Vipassana (walking) meditation, are all methods to cultivate this simple awareness.

On my roughest days the simple act of sitting outside or going for a walk and just taking in everything around me without judgment breaks me out of the rough patches and shows me how connected I am to the world.  It is this choice of simple awareness which gives me that gift.

Be aware of yourself.

Know thyself as Plato’s creed goes.

Being aware of what drives you, what upsets you, and what habits you have developed is essential to being eccentric.  The lack of self-knowledge equates to having a map but not knowing where you are on it.  You can see the world around you and pick a direction but we might as well shoot into the dark for all that matters.

Understand your own vices and virtues.  Reflect on your being and your actions.  You are the center of any eccentricity and without that center you can easily become lost.

Awareness

(the lack thereof being a pet-peeve of mine) shows you the world and your life in richer detail.  When you upgraded from a regular T.V. set to an HDTV you noticed the crispness, the clarity of the images; when you upgrade from living on the world to living in the world you notice the density of experience all around you.

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