I used to barrel through malls, crowds, supermarkets, and so forth without ever seeing a single person. I was focused on my goal or task, and I would just do that. Even at the mall, when I was just window-shopping, I would find myself looking down, not ever looking at people.
As I started reading and learning more about mindfulness (the act of being aware of what is going on around you, to really notice and experience things), my tendency to not notice others was one of the first things I changed.
When I began to be more mindful, I found that it forced me to slow down. To be easy. That in itself is a joy. Everything seems calmer when you're not moving about frenetically.
Next, I began to actually look at people, to notice what they were doing. I started making eye contact and smiling.
This very simple change in the way I related to others in the world brought about a big change in me. I felt more connected, more a part of the world. It may sound strange, but if you go through your day not really seeing others, it can feel very isolating.
Another benefit of noticing people is that you may actually meet someone. A few weekends ago, my husband and I were in Knoxville (you can read about our weekend there on my other blog, the post is: Knoxville, TN: A great destination within a few hours of Indy). We were walking around the World's Fair grounds and we saw a young man reading "Shantaram," which is one of my absolute favorite books. As we walked by, he looked up and we made eye contact, I smiled and remarked that Shantaram was one of the best books I'd ever read. The three of us ended up having a great thirty-minute conversation. It was one of the highlights of the day.
If you find that you walk through life not really noticing people, try slowing down, looking around, making eye contact, and smiling. You'll find that you feel more connection to the world, you'll stop yourself from getting lost in your own thoughts and worries, and you might even meet people.
All this hurrying soon will be over. Only when we tarry do we touch the holy.
-Rainer Maria Rilke
The goal is being present. Being here now.