My 17 Hour Experiment in Paying Attention

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Dark sky with stars


Dear friends,

For some reason I woke up at 5 a.m. last Monday, so I decided to get up and start the week. As I stepped on the back patio to let the dogs out, I noticed the sky at the western horizon was lighter because the moon was setting behind the mountains. The air was crisp and fresh.

I picked up our cat Jackson and held him over my shoulder, which he likes. His purring was both a sound and a vibration, and I felt his soft fur and warmth against my cheek.

In the kitchen I poured coffee in a white cup, and noticed the way the light came through the liquid and how it swirled into the hot milk.

These simple observations caught my attention. Was I especially aware today because I’d gotten up early? I wondered. Was this mindfulness?

Later I sipped my coffee and thought: What if I kept this up and tried to really pay attention to everything today? Thus began my day-long experiment.

‘Mindfulness’ is one of those words that I kind of gloss over when I read it. I know what it means and it sounds good, but I don’t really think about doing it.

During my experiment, I really tried hard to focus on the moments as they happened.




As I stopped at a high-traffic intersection I drive through every school day, I noticed the trees for the first time, and looked at the clouds.

Later, I heard the sound of my colleague’s smile through the phone.

I felt the bracing cold of ice water as I sipped from a glass.

I smelled the fresh aroma and felt the warmth of a fluffy bedspread as I pulled it from the dryer.

When I walked outside to get the mail, I saw the first crocus blooming in the front garden.




Driving Forces

That afternoon, I drove my teenage son to a quiet swimming pool parking lot in the next neighborhood so he could practice driving. Always self conscious, he was relieved that we had the lot entirely to ourselves. I looked over at his determined face and felt a rush of love as he tentatively drove in halting loops around the lot, gradually getting more comfortable behind the wheel.

Then we saw an older man walking our way.

Please, I silently implored him. Please don’t mind if my dark-skinned son drives erratically in your nice pool parking lot. 

The man smiled at us briefly and continued on his way. I made a mental reminder for myself:  Sometimes not staring at someone is such a kind gift. 

Up the hill and back, around the circle, and out on the street a few times, my son made good strides. “Driving takes a lot of focus,” he said after he’d parked the car perfectly between two yellow lines. And then this: “You’re a really good driver.”

There is a tiny window of time during the beginning driving stage, a flash when the teenager is briefly awed by the parent’s skills. What a moment to be alive.


cottonwood trees


I looked up and noticed the cottonwood trees beyond the parking lot, covered with buds showing just the faintest hint of green. March is historically Colorado’s snowiest month, but glory hallelujah, spring is coming.

Common Routines

Back home, I was hyper-aware of a preponderance of simple pleasures:

A mellow dinner with my son.

Laughing at the hilarious premise and cast of Schitt’s Creek on Netflix.

Slipping into a bed with clean sheets.

Reading to the sound of snoring dogs.

Turning out the lights and lying in the darkness, sending up prayers of gratitude.

Did Mindfulness Make a Better Monday?

The idea of mindfulness is so simple, it’s hard to believe that practicing it can make such a profound difference. And yet paying attention turned my regular day into a truly extraordinary day.

Mindfulness made me more thankful for all the blessings around me.

Making the effort to be more aware felt so surprisingly good. I’d love to permanently change my autopilot ways.

How About You?

Do you practice mindfulness? Do you have any tips or thoughts to share? If you try an experiment like this, I’d love to hear your experiences in the Comments section of this post.

Best always,

Eliza Cross's signature

12 thoughts on “My 17 Hour Experiment in Paying Attention”

  1. If I had one more hour per day, I would read my daughter’s favorite book to her 37 more times instead of the usual 3! :)

  2. This is a right-brain thing, being observant and really seeing. We don’t always do it, but it does make life better when we do. Who wouldn’t want the benefit of seeing the good side of life?

  3. If I had one more hour a day, I’d spend it somehow in quiet—reading or taking a walk. I find such peace and strength in these moments. Thank you for your post… what a great encouragement for us to be more mindful (and thus, more grateful?) throughout the day.

  4. If I had an extra hour, I would sleep. Seriously. I’m an intern and often feel under pressure to do funny things i.e. be a magician when it comes to time. More sleep is always welcome:) THEN! I can attend to the bigger things.

  5. I would spend my extra hour reading. I have a stack of books that I have wanted to read but never seem to have the time. Reading is one of my favorite things to do.

  6. I had a similar epiphany on my train ride to work yesterday because my phone battery died and all I could do was stare at every single person of about 200 around me slouched in seats, a numb stare at their phones, scroll scroll scroll, skip skip skip, next next next. Mostly nonsense content that I was eavesdropping on, too.

    It’s so hard not to multitask in the brain when we all do it shamelessly without even realizing it, all day both digitally or tangibly. I can’t even think of when the last time I ever had a web browser open with just one tab open. I am always click, click, click, link, link, link. Read that now. Flag that for later. It’s compulsive when you don’t even realize it.

    A couple things that help me take my brain out of that multi-task mindset. Reading a paper book. Writing a snail mail letter. Taking a bath (without a phone or ipad nearby). Listening to records would probably be a good one to add to the pile, but I haven’t bought a record player. I keep meaning to.

  7. Having one more hour a day would be a gift to this very busy mom. I have two boys, one 5yrs and a 14month old. I spend so much of my day rushing, clock watching, and cleaning that I find it hard to just sit an enjoy much of anything. Even when I am eating, I am just thinking about the next thing I need to do, the next place I have to be.
    My older son has autism, and he is basically the opposite of me… He is so very much in the present, enjoying the things that make him happy, and sometimes wanting to do them over and over. I am pretty sure hes not too concerned about tomorrow, he has what he needs and makes the best of now.
    I want to make more time to be present with him, to be exited about dinosaurs and counting and shapes. One more hour to spend time with my family and to enjoy the little things.


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