12 Apr 2011, 9:55am
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Attention

Attention

The simple act of paying Attention is, arguably, the hardest thing we’re ever called upon to do.  The more I learn about paying Attention, the more I realize how often I’m not doing it. I’m not here. Not now.

Babies pay attention.

It’s not that as adults we never do it. When we do, we have a special name for it. The Zone. We recognize it because everything flows and we experience ourselves at our very best in whatever we’re doing.

Is it even possible or desirable to maintain this level of Attention all the time? Probably not.

What is possible and desirable is to monitor how often we’re lost in thought, regretting the past or fearing the future. Or wishing we were in one or the other, anywhere but here.

“What do you think of reality? I’m against it. I’m completely against it.”

This is how Eckard Tolle describes the way we relate to the present moment. Most particularly when we judge that we don’t like our circumstances. The paradox is this. If we don’t pay close Attention to those circumstances, chances are we won’t see the way out when it presents itself in an unexpected way.

How then do we train ourselves in Attention? The best way I know is to practice Meditation. That may sound like bad news to some of you. The good news is there are a myriad of ways to meditate and there’s one to suit you. In fact, you’re probably, sometimes, doing it already and you don’t know it.

Do you ever stare at waves breaking on a shoreline?

Do you sit in a rowboat waiting for a fish to bite?

Do you chop wood?

Brew tea?

Iron clothing?

Any and all of these can be done meditatively.  These small everyday actions, done with Attention, can be practice for the bigger things, like meditating on your life situation. Or meditating on what path to take into your future.

Attention is incompatible with hurry and with worry. Admit it. You don’t enjoy those anyway, do you? It’s perfectly compatible with getting the job done. If the time is right to do a job, get a job, or quit a job, Attention will help.

One of my favorite sayings, again from A Course in Miracles, is “When in doubt, do nothing.” This isn’t my favorite because I’m lazy. It’s my favorite because it’s kept me from over functioning or taking the wrong path countless times. Doing (or saying) nothing is sometimes the best expression of Attention.

I invite you to observe babies or dogs paying Attention this week. Now isn’t that the most fun homework assignment you’ve ever had? Next week we’ll look at why we’re not paying Attention, why we take refuge in our heads, in busyness, in indulgences of various kinds. We’ll deconstruct the Fear that’s at the root of our behavior.  Meanwhile, babies and dogs!