Thursday, November 18, 2010

Paying Attention




Attention - Concentration of the mental powers; from the Latin attendere: to stretch toward.


Thousands of images, events and fires, both big and small, demand our attention daily -- everything from the kids, to work, to the next apocalyptic disaster around the corner, all vying for limited mental parking space. The parking lot is usually overflowing with a line backed out to the street -- and still, we hope for a little space left over where maybe we can also 'attend' to some of the things that help us stand strong another day - the rejuvenation and restoration we all need to find, if only in the corners of our life, in order to have the reserves and will to rise again, to not only survive, but thrive.


Four facts about mental acreage:

> What you attend to matters.

> What you don't attend to matters as much.

> There's a finite number of parking spots in your lot.

> We each are the parking 'attendant' of our own lot; i.e. it's up to us to carefully attend to who/what enters - OR if we allow everyone/everything that loudly demands entry "NOW!" to enter just because they're loudly demanding [it's always 'now', isn't it?].


We work the gate. We decide to allow entry -- or not. There's no one and nothing else to blame - even if the cars are circling the block, leaning on their horns, flippin' each other off, demanding 'NOW!' like a three year old's tantrum. Best thing to do with overly demanding children is to ignore their unreasonable demands. Just 'cuz they're loud, doesn't mean they should get attention for it.

Patience, delayed gratification and self-restraint don't get a lot of 'attention' these days. It shows - just drive a car for 15 minutes among your fellow travelers if you doubt it.

Not much time is spent 'attending' to Beauty either, Beauty with a capital 'B', not the trivial kind you can buy, but the awe-some kind that stops you in your tracks as you hustle forward in your busy day.

Walk with a two year old discovering for the first time the world laid out before them and you'll experience it: "That leaf! That leaf! Look!" and you know you are in the presence of a 'high being' in a state of awe and ecstasy.

If we can stop to look, we'll see how the raindrops from the night's rain have settled on the fallen leaf like jewels - an ordinary leaf - the same as millions of others, except this one - it captures the glint of sun rising in the morning sky - it magnifies the light, magnifies Life and Beauty ---

IF

we stop to notice it - an ordinary leaf on a slab of ordinary gray concrete, made Extraordinary by stopping, getting close, and noticing.

Attending.

It takes practice. It's not just for two year olds and crazy artists.

We are the gatekeepers of OUR Mental Parking Lots - and mine has gardens, flowers and vines growing all over it. If I let you in, please park carefully and know this is premium parking space [I don't let just anything in!] and please pay attention to not run over the sunflowers growing along the edges.


To read more, ask your local library for:

'Rapt - Attention and the Focused Life' by Winifred Gallagher

5 comments:

kathryn said...

Our mental parking space is a great way to describe a crowded mind and the joys of more space, more emptiness.

Zen lessons at their best.

el poquito said...

Hey, Ka - Reading this 'the day after' and your comment, reminds me of how I tend to learn things the hard way - through direct experience. In recovery from being physically flattened, it was easy to recognize I had limited 'coinage' to spend each day as I tried to rebuild - and it called for a thriftiness and wise spending.

It's taken me much longer to recognize the same in the mental realm: sometimes we have more limited 'coinage' there, also, calling for thriftiness and wise spending, a.k.a.'Focus', but in another realm.

Ah, the lessons of a Life-long Student... especially those dang zen ones!

; ) thanx for dropping by, taking a peek and smilin' in the window.

Gypsy said...

Read an article in the Times a couple of weeks ago by one Virginia Heffernan about attention spans, She quotes Jerry Seinfeld saying, "There is no such thing as an attention span. There is only the quality of what you are viewing." Hmm. Someone else said something similar to me (that if something's REALLY interesting suddenly focus is back). Well, maybe but it's still an issue day to day. Will check out that book!!! Hoping life stays that interesting!! Gypsy

Gypsy said...

Read an article in the Times by one Virginia Heffernan about attention spans. She quotesJerry Seinfeld saying, "There is no such thing as an attention span. There is only the quality of what you are viewing." Hmm. Someone else said something similar to me (that if something's REALLY interesting suddenly focus is back). Well, maybe but it's still an issue day to day. Will check out that book!!! Hoping life stays that interesting!! Gypsy

el poquito said...

Hey Gypsy,

Good to see you drop by.

Re: "There is only the quality of what you are viewing." Indeed. In fact, that's where I'd like to go next with this: restoring some of that quality.

Soon. It's still percolating a bit.