The Art of Paying Attention

 Life is denied by lack of attention,
whether it be to cleaning windows
or trying to write a masterpiece. 
~ Nadia Boulanger

   Paying attention to the world around you can teach you how to live in a natural flow of responding to life as you experience it. Life is a great teacher and if we pay attention to the world around us it will show us what our next step is. Often we can get caught up in mind-talk or play out far-reaching scenarios in our mind, instead of being mindful and aware of what life is presenting to us in each fresh and ever-changing moment. Life will always provide reasons for joyfulness as well as reason for concern. In attending to life in each moment we can learn to surrender to the flow of life as we are carried and supported in ways that go far beyond human understanding.

We have both a moment-to-moment purpose as well as a larger life purpose.   Our moment-to-moment purpose teaches us what needs to be done, what our next step is. When we are paying attention we realize that the herbs growing in the pot out on the deck need to be watered, or breakfast needs to be prepared, or the trash in the neighborhood park needs picking up, or the elderly lady standing on the sidewalk needs help crossing the road, or a load of laundry needs doing, library books need to be returned, a conference call needs to be scheduled or the dog needs grooming. The reality of life will always reveal what the next step is, and if you are in tune with the flow of life you will respond and attend to what needs doing. Attention must be focused on reality. Reality will always teach you what you need to learn. As you learn to observe reality you will get clear information regarding what needs to be done, this is purposeful behavior. Your next step will then be to do invest your attention into doing your activity well.   When you lead a simple and well organized life you will be able to put more attention on what needs doing instead of deciding what needs to be done. The magic is in the doing not in the deciding. Sometimes you may be required to make choices and decide what tasks are important or necessary. At certain times it may be essential and helpful to allow the dishes to pile up in the sink while you pay attention to your larger life purpose. The daily tasks can take up a large chunk of time, and it is important to be aware of the balance that is required in dividing your time up between daily living and your larger purpose. It is also interesting to note that your larger purpose can often be found in your moment-to-moment purpose, so pay attention!

Learn to pay attention to your surroundings. When you pay attention to people you will begin to notice many opportunities to be of service in the world. Compassion develops when you place your awareness on people, animals, plants and the beauty of the world around you, instead of remaining caught up in your own worries and concerns. Focusing your attention on others will help you to see the pain, joy, tenderness, love, problems, delight and concerns of others. As a result you will be far more in tune with the world and act in loving and compassion ways. When you are alert to the needs of your fellow human beings, then you may stop asking the question “How can others be of use to me?’ and instead ask, “How can I be of use to others?”

During challenging moments in life, pay attention to the world around you, it really is fascinating! Always remember the qualities of compassion, grace and gentleness. By staying aware and being connected to the present moment and learning to pay attention to the word around you, many previously unnoticed opportunities will become apparent. You will then have the chance to act on these opportunities and before long your life will be flowing smoothly downstream again. Whatever you pay attention to expands and the actions you take ripple out and have an effect on the world around you.

Remember that life is a matter of attention.
 “Have a look at the apple tree in your yard. Look at it with complete attention. It is truly a miracle. If you notice it, you will take good care of it, and you too are part of its miraculousness.”
                                          ~Thich Nhat Hanh

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