I don’t know about you but for us in Wiltshire the primroses have been fantastic this year. They seem more prolific and the bunches seem denser with flowers. During the daytime they raise the spirits with the capacity to capture the sun and reflect it back at you. At night time they have a ghostly glow on the sloping garden outside our kitchen window.
While out for our daily walk we are noticing the primroses more, or is it that we are less inclined to take them for granted? That’s an interesting phrase isn’t it: taking things for granted. Why is that we so often take for granted the information that our senses provide us? It is entirely probably that the primrose display is no different from any other year. Perhaps the apparent change is more in about my capacity to see them?
After all, our brains have a range of strategies for coping with the mass of information coming in from our senses. One such filtering mechanism is how we unconsciously scan for difference or change in our environment. If we sense a change we immediately process whether it might be a threat or a reward using our memories (and current context) as a reference point. If we sense a threat we might well gear ourselves to ‘step away’, if a potential reward our intent will be to pursue it. The vast majority of our sensory data falls in the ‘same as before’ category and we effectively ignore it. In fact, take it for granted. There is no question that this filtering mechanism is a great asset to our wellbeing in enabling us to cope with what would otherwise be sensory overload. Yet it can also disconnect us from things that might have mattered to us at one point and which might well matter to us again. Reconnection of our thinking and feeling with something we have unhelpfully taken for granted is a feature of many of the coaching conversations I have with my clients.
Back to the point – primroses! Having sensed that they seem more abundant we paid them more attention. Did you know wild type primroses came with two different arrangements of their stamens and stigma? In one, the pin-eyed arrangement, the stigma alone shows in the gap at the centre of the flower with the stamens being hidden halfway down the tube below this gap. The thrum eyed version has the stamens at the top edge and the stigma hidden within the tube. Each bunch of primroses will be either pin or thrum eyed and have evolved this mechanism as cross pollination between the two types leads to a stronger daughter plant. It will come as no surprise that it was Darwin who noted the difference. I am left wondering if his amazing powers of observation and attention to detail are a particular form of mindfulness. I am sure he would have been amused to see me prone amongst bunches of primroses in a mindful place of my own looking to spot both pin and thrum-eyed varieties. I confess I was ridiculously pleased with myself when I found both!
This small experience has reminded me not to take things for granted. To do so cuts off opportunities for learning. In certain situations, perhaps not primrose related, it can also have profound effects on our behaviour and how comfortable with are in ourselves and our relationships. I will probably not remember the whys and wherefores of the pin- and thrum-eyed primrose but I will have a strong visual memory of how they looked. In future years, in March and April, you may well see me in a mindful world of my own, closely inspecting a bank of primroses. Not taking them for granted!