We hear it often as children. As adults, we probably need to hear it more than the children do. Children are usually excellent at paying attention; they just tune out what they are not interested in hearing.
I wonder if Paying Attention is one of the signs that we are really alive, not just surviving?
It’s one of those messages that I repeatedly run into.
Sometimes it’s a nudge: pay attention. Have you ever noticed the beauty of cream and coffee swirling together? Brown and white dancing around each other, moving marble swirls just below the steaming, still liquid surface? I’m too busy and distracted most mornings to notice. What else do I regularly miss?
Pay attention. Keep your eyes open. That’s when you get to see the hawk diving for the grey squirrel or the caterpillar splitting out of its caterpillar skin or the morning star swallowed up by the morning light. When I am paying attention, I notice poetry happening around me.
When I pay attention, I am amazed. Amazed by the beauty that is everywhere and grateful that I can be a part of it, small as I am.
Often, paying attention keeps us alive–literally and spiritually.
Sometimes I need reminders. Like the car crossing the intersection while I slam on my horn and brakes, shouting: “What in the world! What is she doing???”
My light is red. Her light is green. That’s why she pulled out into the intersection, trusting that I would stop.
Turn off that interesting Annie Lennox song that captured your attention. Forget about the market sign advertising tomatoes instead of the peaches advertised the day before. You weren’t going to buy a box of peaches anyway. Turn your attention away from the distractions, and pay attention to Life and important things like the road before you and delivering your son to his soccer game in one piece.
As I focus on the road before me, I ask myself: What else do I need to pay attention to?
Look. Pause. Listen.
Who is on my heart? Let them know.
Pay attention to the still, small voice. Ask: “Why have I been given today?” Stay open for the answer.
I am learning that our bodies have things to tell us if only we would pay attention.
I am learning that our tears have messages for us if we pay attention rather than quickly brushing them away.
I love the idea that when we are really paying attention, the very act of living becomes a sort of prayer.
“Prayer . . . is waking up to the presence of God no matter where I am or what I am doing. When I am fully alert to whatever or whoever is right in front of me; when I am electrically aware of the tremendous gift of being alive; when I am able to give myself wholly to the moment I am in, then I am in prayer. Prayer is happening, and it is not necessarily something that I am doing. God is happening, and I am lucky enough to know that I am in the midst.”
~ Barbara Brown Taylor[i]
[i] Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World, p. 178.