noticing + visual literacy for wellness.

Yesterday, was talking to a woman who has experienced a great deal in her life.  She said to me,

I want to taste peace. 
I want to taste joy. 
I need to taste my food. 
I need to taste my kids. 
The past needs a great hug. 

I just spent four weeks in a training program for visual literacy at a local art gallery, a program designed to help residents with the art of noticing in the clinical setting.  If I pick and chose charitably from the program, the things I loved were the things that helped me see forms of human life more vividly.  

The woman uses 'taste' as a proxy for 'seeing' to illustrate how seeing is more than just triggering the occipital cortex with light and form.  Seeing is tasting, feeling, hearing, touching and smelling.  For this woman, her most underused form of noticing was taste because of her history of abuse, leading to years of emotional eating and drug use.  Years of numbing.  Years of intentional blindness to the world around because the world, for her, was too painful to be seen vividly. 

When asked about my view of meditation, my stock answer has been, “I have a profound relationship with meditation. I think about it every day.” It’s true! Every day for years, I’ve heard the call of contemplative solitude. And nearly every day, I’ve turned a deaf ear. I’ve run from mental discipline like Jonah escaping the call of God until he ends up in the putrid belly of the whale. My addiction-prone, ADHD brain always wants to look to the outside to get away from itself.
— Gabor Mate, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

I too run from tasting.  I run from noticing in my life.  But medicine demands, like a cranky toddler, that I notice and so I've been working on that.  All of the various stillness and mindfulness language I've heard from Jon Kabat-Zinn and the Buddha pales in comparison to what this woman shared with me: I need to taste peace. I need to taste joy. 




*photo credit: Jonathan Pendleton,