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We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.


My toes lift up in a little dance, and my left hand is clenching again.

I don’t know if you know Dave Rowley, but you should. He is a bright, sweet, thoughtful, completely lovely person, and I am a fan.

Anyway, he’s been in the process of putting together a something that combines writing, creativity and working through stuck in gentle and unlikely ways.

And I got to be a guinea pig. Which was amazing.

Noticing? Noticing.

It was like being in a creative writing course, except without pressure, judgment, rules, critique or the whole oh god I’m not a writer what am I even doing here self-doubt extravaganza.

Dave’s way of doing things was curious, playful and really, really safe. And the whole thing was just really freeing and really fun.

One of the warm-up exercises we did was about noticing.

The idea was to just write what you notice over the course of several minutes.

Sensations, feelings, temperature, setting.

And I have to say, even though I teach yoga and meditation and all that good mindfulness stuff, I had this moment of ugh noticing, how boring.

But then we started. And it was fascinating.

Here’s what I wrote about noticing what I was noticing.

This room is really blue. I mean, really really really blue.

Blue walls blue clock blue bottles blue tray blue cards blue package blue tissues. Even the trashcan is blue. This person must really like blue.

I sit here every day and never saw that.

Noticing. My jaw is tight. Tight with a sound on the right side.

Noticing how I yawn to loosen it up, softening everything. Everything except my left fingers which are clenching the desk that is not a desk. Do I always do that?

Noticing I don’t have a name for this desk-non-desk, the wooden square that attaches to my chair, where all my writing happens. It doesn’t have a name.

Noticing how much I want to cross my legs. My feet don’t like being on the floor. I place them on the floor consciously and then my toes lift up in a little dance, and my left hand is clenching again.

I lean back into the chair. The sun is shining through the windows, through all those blue bottles, shining blue right onto me.

Like I’m being infused with blue. And now my left hand does unclench.

It unclenches and then it doesn’t know what to do, restless.

It’s trying out different homes. On my thigh. Upside down. Pressed into the chair. Resting on the armrest, but not resting at all.

Resting but not resting.

Here’s what I loved about this exercise:

It was so simple and so loving, and there wasn’t any way to screw it up.

In mediation, when the focus is on noticing, the practice can very easily veer into extreme self-discipline and even self-violence: forcing yourself to return to noticing a particular thing in a particular way. Pushing down creativity and curiosity.

In my experience, I have to remain very aware of a compassionate intention in order to subvert the “do-it-like-this”-ness that exists in so much of the meditation world.

This was different. Noticing was the point, so you could go beyond noticing a sensation and sink deeper into the noticings behind the noticing.

There wasn’t a way to do it wrong or badly, because all you’re doing is noticing.

It wasn’t about writing well or writing something of meaning. Just the noticing.

So much freedom there.

Comment zen for today.

I enjoyed the noticing-in-writing so much that I did it again this morning.

And I thought it could be fun if you wanted to try it too, if you feel like it.

A minute or two to jot down whatever you’re experiencing in the present moment. And then see how you feel.

If you’d like to share here, that would be wonderful.

This is the safest place on the internet, and the way we keep it that way is through our agreement to let everyone have his or her own experience.

We don’t give unsolicited advice, we don’t tell each other what to do or how to be, and we make room for people to do things in their own way.

Love all around.

22 Responses to My toes lift up in a little dance, and my left hand is clenching again.

  1. ShimmerGeek says:

    I hear the wind playfully blowing around leaves outside on the car park beneath my window. My mind is insisting that they must be blowing in circles, even though I can’t see them. I like watching them, and they always blow in circles.

    Hearing them reminds me that the window is open. It smells fresh and clean, and the air is cool – but not too cool – perfect cool. Comfortable cool. Like the perfect cool of sheets when you could stay in bed all day.

    I hear seagulls and I feel like I can suddenly smell the salt in the air. It reminds me of Seattle. If it was warmer maybe it would remind me of San Francisco.

    I notice that it’s beginning to get less light. The light is perfect. Clear, not too bright.

    I notice how deliciously smooth my wood (wood substitute? heavily plastic-ised wood?) desk is. How it’s cluttered and not as calm as I like. How the way my left arm lays rested on it is putting too much pressure on my forearm and it’s going to leave a mark. How I’m sitting squint, as always.

    The key in the lock and the opening door, and the ‘Hi’ as my boyfriend walks in the door. My fingers on the keys, click-clacking.

  2. Tessa Zeng says:

    Mm. Thank you, Havi, for opening up this space.

    Noticing… the sun spreading its fingers onto my bedspread and torso, my laptop in the way, its electronic warmth on my knees. The fingers on the keys, and the nail of my pinky that has gotten very long.

    The itch next to my eyebrow. Just scratched. My intent on noticing just now. And how as soon as I thought ‘itch’ different parts of my body started joining in. Like my right shoulder. And the lower side of my belly.

    My feet waving themselves around over the edge of the bed.

    How everyone reading this is going to think I am so body-centric. My smile upon writing that.

    The trees waving around and getting in the way of the sun’s salute.

    A satisfied, silent exhale tinged with morning tiredness that is me settling into the day and getting ready for a few hours of writing. Attention shift now.
    Tessa Zeng recently posted… Don’t be alarmed- but I can actually read your mind

  3. Jess says:


    My left side aches. This means: I’m tired of sitting. I notice I can see my hair through my periphery without meaning to. I notice I want to send a reassuring text and I’m debating if it’s necessary or not.

    I notice a slight buzzing in my body when I stay really still. I notice the quiet hum of my computer/printer/speakers.

    I notice clenching muscles, and unclench them. I notice how I don’t have to move to unclench, but I feel so much more grounded. Open.

    Notice my shoulders are inching toward my ears.

    Unclench. I notice this a lot during the day.

    I notice I clench because my boss is walking into my office.


  4. Kathleen Avins
    Twitter: spiralsongkat

    Noticing…the lunch I am eating: bean thread noodles that I cooked in vegetable broth. Noticing the gloriously sensual texture of nooooodles, warm and soft and filling the inside of my mouth. Noticing that now I’m thinking of people who think I eat too many noodles, who think that the portions of noodles that I eat are too huge. Noticing that now I feel guilty and furtive with my noodles. I am eating them alone. Remembering someone who has accused me of “sneaking” food alone. I’m not sneaking; I just don’t want to be judged.

    Noticing that so much of what I’ve been noticing is my own thoughts. Recalling how just before lunch, my mind was bouncing all over the place, making it feel hard to move forward with my work.

    Noticing: so much judgment! Thinking of how irritated I feel when I perceive others as being judgmental. Remembering my ironic and self-deprecating idea for a bumper sticker: Judgmental People Suck.

    Now I’m noticing a large white crumpled paper towel on the table. Noticing how it feels — soothing, calming — now that my focus has shifted away from the stuff inside my head and onto a simple object…and noticing that my thoughts have bounced right back to those noodles again. A little less judgment now — just lots of noodles.
    Kathleen Avins recently posted… Friday Fragments IV- late and lightning-quick

  5. […] might also like Havi’s beautiful post describing the session we did together […]

  6. Kim
    Twitter: kimlnicol

    i really enjoyed the comment zen for today.
    reading it was like getting a little mini massage.
    Kim recently posted… Bare your sole

  7. Elizabeth
    Twitter: elizabethhalt

    Noticing that my feet are cold. Wet and cold. Noticing that I want to put them on the warm heater but I don’t want to get up to turn the heat on so the heater will be warm. Noticing that my feet remain wet and cold and I keep going back to them.

    Noticing the tightness in my jaw. And the beginnings of tightness in my back. Wondering if it’s not that my back pain comes on so suddenly now, as it is that maybe I’m not noticing the very beginning of when it starts. Noticing that there is the possibility for space before the pain. Noticing how appreciative I feel at this thought.

    Noticing my pretty green plant, waving slightly in the not-a-breeze-but-wiggly-desk-movement. Noticing that it looks like it’s waving at me. Noticing that I want to wave back but feel rather silly – Hi, dear little Lila.

    Noticing how much I want to practice yoga. Yes. I will do that now.

    Thank you Havi, and Dave, this is lovely.
    Elizabeth recently posted… an important public service announcement

  8. Leni says:

    Noticing my legs and arms have annoying lil burning itches.

    Noticing my energy is still low after lunch. Noticing I want to do more yoga and keep talking msyelf out of it. Noticing I haven’t done even simple stretches in many weeks.

    Noticing I’m intrigued by Krav Maga and allowing the potential cost has become a REason Not To.

    Proud of msyelf for signing up for the free class anyway.

    Nothing to do at work. I mean NOTHING at all. This makes presence in my body harder.

    Living in the future–after work, get kids, make dinner etc etc. Hard time letting go of all the spiritual obligations I have blown off this week–so many. Very hard time letting go of Missing TV Remote, which makes watching a movie impossible. This makes me sad, and frustrated too.

    Noticing I’m perfectly sober which is a big accomplsihment. Dekliberately went to work sober and have remained sober. Proud to be sober this moment.

    Noticing I’m feeling kinda gypped that being sober isn’t more sparkly. Worried that Sparkly may not be possible today, but that not-sober will surely follow as soon as i get home and into my pj’s.

    Noticing I love my pink striped PJ’s. That’s a nice reward. And that I’m looking forward to not-sober, but not jonesing about it, which is really quite lovely and SAFE.

  9. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi

    Mmmm. These are all so beautiful. I’m noticing how much I enjoy the variety of things people notice, and how powerful words are.

  10. Mary Tracy
    Twitter: MaryTracy

    What a fantastic excercise! Thank you so much for sharing it with us.
    Mary Tracy recently posted… Divide And Conquer

  11. Dave
    Twitter: asmallfield

    Thank you for posting about our session, Havi, I had such a great time writing with you.
    It’s great to read all these ‘noticings’ in the comments.

    Noticing my feet on the floor, the weight of my boots, the wooden table beneath my arms. noticing tension across my shoulders, magnolia buds outside the window. it’s been raining–everything’s wet outside. I can make out the droplets from here. feeling settled, content. but hungry, right there in my stomach, I feel that. cool draft on my arms, from under the door?

  12. Barbara Martin @Reptitude
    Twitter: Reptitude

    How marvelous to not be able to do it wrong!
    I noticed the birds are singing outside to my left and that window blind is closed so I can’t see them. Ahead and to the right, the windows are unobstucted but the view might was well be a black and white photo — white stucco, white cloud, two odd tree branches in motionless, silent silhouette.

    Then I heard an airplane in the distance and realized that for a few moments it had been so quiet outside: no voices, no landscapers/cleaners/delivery trucks, no sirens, no traffic noise(!) although I am sitting in the middle of one of the densest parts of Los Angeles on a weekday afternoon. And it felt so peaceful.

    Now I hear the clicking of the keyboard — and I notice that I hear it rather than feel it. And I would rather be writing by hand, too, I think as Julia Cameron insisted it is indeed a more direct route from heart to hand to the page that way. Oddly, typing uses two hands instead of just one, but I still think she and Dave are right about that. Different strokes. :)
    Barbara Martin @Reptitude recently posted… Stirring Broken Eggs

  13. kim
    Twitter: avoidingkim

    I’m uneasy about this, because there are no rules :)

    Noticing that my jaw is clenched. My shoulders sneaking up towards my ears. Oh, my fingernails are awful. I wonder what my toenails look like. Too lazy to move so that I can see them. Noticing the heating pad is warming up, soothing my back. Which is also clenched. Noticing that my stomach/chest feels tight. I don’t want the phone to ring. I don’t want to talk to anyone about my mom. I can handle texts, kind of, but my whole body is resisting talking on the phone. Noticing my glasses are dirty. Noticing that I keep looking around hoping to find chocolate. Really don’t want to leave my comfy, warm spot, but I really want chocolate. Noticing how much I hate the ceiling fan in my room. My toes are cold. Must go get chocolate.
    kim recently posted… The Book of Me- Notes on Hospitals and Horribleness

  14. Mara Rose
    Twitter: Mararose10

    Noticing this is truly a safe non-judgmental space. Noticing the powerful permission just to BE. Noticing how much appreciation I feel. Havi & Dave, thank you for this.


  15. tamara
    Twitter: artistkatana


    the tears that are pooling at the corner of my right eye. my mouth is clenching the edge of the sleeping bag, and my tongue plays with the seam between the nylon and the cotton. noticing the shadows of the little bumps on my right wrist, the broken shine where my skin wrinkles.

    the whiteness of the glare on the black keyboard, where the black looks grey where the keys bevel. the oval shapes for the music player.

    the music has stopped. i can still hear the lyris of ladytron’s seventeen playing. maybe that’s why i didn’t notice.

    feeling calmer than when i started. less teary.

    the lamp to my right is yellow-gold, yellower than the ceiling lamp reflected in the mirror, with finger prints on one edge only. they could be frosted on. i wonder if anyone has made a mirror with frosted fingerprints. it would be cute.

    the sleeping bag is wet, starting to seep around the corners of my lips.

    my eyelids are dry and tight.

    i feel angry.

  16. Callisto Shampoo
    Twitter: callistra

    It rained for the first time in six months today. I hunted for my cardigan, and pulled it on, forgetting the kids might need jackets too. My feet are swollen from walking the jacket to school, breathing chilly air into my lungs and plodding one step at a time until I see the great bars of the gate. Now I sit at my desk and ponder the swollen feet, preparing for my next task and pleased I stacked the papers to one side and cleared my desk.

    I think a cup of tea is in order. Sometimes the sun dapples my desk, but today is a day for clouds.

  17. Sara V says:

    I’m perched on the edge of my seat and my back doesn’t like it. My right wrist is feeling sore and my head is cocked to one side. Feet are flat on the ground but my knees are skewiff. (Is that how you write that?)Hum of the harddrive to my right, vague squeakings from the workshop through the wall on my left. No road traffic – it goes like that sometimes. That beautiful yellow green of the spring trees that have started to bud, black and silver silhouette of the trees that haven’t. Left wrist is starting to hurt a little. My glasses frame my vision, like I am watching through a television screen. I’ve straightened up. Back is still not totally supported and I’ve crossed my feet…but better. (Feet flat on floor again)Creak of the stairs as the guys go upstairs – yup 10.30 on the dot. Teatime. Itchy left ear – it doesn’t like earrings. But my breathing is deepening and I feel I am really here. My mind has had a chance to catch up with my body. My body is paying attention to what my mind has to say. Ready for anything. Thanks for the space to do this. My day is already thanking you for it.

  18. Judy says:

    Noticing tightness in the back of my neck as I type, the sound of my breath going out. I cough then notice how strong the contraction is in my upper chest and throat is after the cough while it dissipates. The computer has a slight hum. Then I’m looking at the keyboard, mostly at the “G”, the sound of the keys and the tapping of my fingers. My focus is in but out. There’s a drip outside. My lower legs are tingling and my stomach gurgles.I read what I’ve written and wonder, am I done? There’s quick flash of inner judgment – is that all there is? Did you do it right?, shoulders tighten and roll forward. I want to push away the thought. and decide to keep writing. How will I know I’m done?

  19. Rachel
    Twitter: rachelgordonart

    I love the idea of noticing. I’m a photographer and most of my projects are about noticing. You can see some at http://www.imnoticing.com. Mostly what I notice are things that are left behind. Noticing things in my environment (most of which we filter out) has helped me to be more aware of what I am noticing inside myself and vice versa. Such a good reminder to slow down and be in the moment. Thanks for the post!

  20. Susan T. Blake
    Twitter: susantblake

    I too am a photographer and named my little photography business Notice Photography. I love the noticing and curiosity and wonder, and one of the things I am noticing is how frequently noticing and curiosity and wonder are coming up on the internet. It makes me hopeful.
    Susan T. Blake recently posted… A Curious Guest- Curiosity Didn’t Kill the Writer In Fact- It Helped Her Writing!

  21. […] all about working through blocks and the creative process. Beautiful stuff. I found it through this post by Havi Brooks, who was one of Dave’s test subjects for his new writing sessions. I kind of […]

  22. […] is a post by Havi Brooks about her experience of doing noticing with […]

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