Mary Oliver wrote,
Instructions for Living a Life
Tell About It
A number of years ago I made a self-commitment to pay more attention to what was happening both internally and externally. It has been a worthwhile experiment and I am still practicing. What does one do to pay more attention? There are many things we can do and many exercises we can engage in to develop our ability to be more attentive. To develop an attentive attitude is like anything else it takes practice and exercise. Internally when I was feeling certain emotions rather than just accepting them as the ‘mood of the day’ I started questioning why I was feeling a certain way. Even when I was feeling ‘on top of the world’, I would examine the apparent, and at times not so apparent, reason why. When I was feeling great it was usually caused by events, thoughts, or circumstances that were positive. Sounds simplistic but it held true. When I wasn’t feeling well it was caused by the negativity in my life that I soon discovered I had invited. When I was feeling physically unbalanced is usually had something to do with what I ingested. Fast food, alcohol, drugs, sweets, nicotine, and just too much of anything always contributed to my physical imbalance. If I had a medical condition I seemed to make it worse by dwelling on it and falling into the negative imbalance. Some folks just love to be sick. If I was experiencing negative spiritual/mental imbalance I could trace it back to some event, thought, or circumstance that I had invited into my journey. I would spend the afternoon at Suzie/Sammy’s house and listen for hours about ‘She cheated on him’, ‘He drinks too much’, ‘Their kids are rotten’, ‘Their house is a pig sty’, and on it would go. That afternoon would drain my energy, set into motion a negative imbalance, and I can attribute some physical reactions as well. Why the hell did I go there? They are family. I don’t freaking care. Pay attention! These situations are unhealthy, mentally and physically. Stay away.
Awhile back I discovered Hidden Object Games on line. Hey, we all need a ‘no mind’ break every now and then. Activities like Crossword Puzzles, Solitaire, and Sudoku are great for escaping for a bit and doing something completely different. Hidden Object Games are essentially everyday items hidden in a scene so as not to be readily visible, but identifiable never the less. Big Fish Games has a number of these games and you can play free for an hour. At first looking at a one dimensional screen and trying to find these objects was completely frustrating. I then started to learn how to see past the scene. Even a one dimensional scene has depth and layers that we don’t often see, unless of course we are looking for them. It was a great exercise in paying attention. As I improved I noticed that I was applying this ability to my external world. When travelling down the same road and seeing the trees go by I would notice a small meadow or stream behind the trees that I hadn’t noticed before. Seeing a young child in a department store, I now also saw that shy smile when they noticed me. How many times have we had a friend or loved one call us for no apparent reason and after the conversation is over you have thought to yourself, “What the hell was that all about?” Then ask yourself if you missed something or was there another reason for the call? “Oh well, if they really want to talk they will call me back.” We weren’t paying attention.
Each morning I make a self-commitment to ‘Pay Attention’. Look beyond the one dimension, the apparent scene, and the situation you find yourself in. Have the courage to remove yourself from events or circumstances that are not positive regardless of who is involved or what they will think of you. This journey is about you. Be aware of your sixth sense and peripheral vision. Catch the eagle that just landed in the tree, see the squirrel that just scampered along the fence, and see the meadow beyond the trees. See that shy young smile when the child doesn’t think you are looking. Be open when others need you and go to them rather than them coming to you. Simply pay attention. Think before you speak or act. How will this affect those around me? What can I do to make another’s journey just that little bit better? Simply pay attention.
Be astonished. When we pay attention we go beyond the mundane day to day observations and truly start to see. How does a small acorn grow into a mighty oak? Better still where did those tons of material come from that make up the tree and why is there no huge crater around the tree from where the material was used? Pay attention to that inner voice that tells you to phone a friend and be astonished when that friend says I have been thinking about you all day. Take time to pay attention to that hummingbird hovering. Be astonished. Purposely find things that will astonish you. Personally a dog engaging in conversation would astonish the hell out of me. There are many things that want to astonish us. Set the alarm for early morning and watch the sunrise. Don’t hold on to the old adage, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’ Try this one; ‘If I believe I will see it’. And when you are astonished don’t put it aside. It’s raining and you have to go to the store and just as you get there a parking space just in front of the entrance opens up. You would have missed it if you weren’t paying attention and now you explain your astonishment by coincidence. Be astonished. There is no such thing as coincidence.
Celebrate the miracles in your life.
And finally ‘Tell About It’. Well I’ve done my part now what are you going to do?
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The night approaches and rolls over me like a velvet fog. Certain events, as they are happening, you realize will take some time to fully digest and you know you will remember them for eternity. The other day I was visiting a Gentleman who is ninety-six years old currently living in an extended care lodge. He is an old rugged Scot still voicing plain words in a gruff brogue. Alex is definitely not a very tactile person. As I was leaving he shakily rose and asked for a hug. This took me by total surprise yet my higher self did not hesitate, but immediately gave him a big yet gentle hug, at the same time consciously transferring every bit of positive energy I had.
He then looked me straight in the eye and said, “Thank you, I needed that.”
No more was said as he shook my hand in a firm grip and smiled. The emotional wave filled me fully. I am still digesting these moments as well as savouring the treasures contained within. The lesson I confirmed was to always try and put yourself in positions where love can find you. Take this to your pillow tonight and ponder where you will find your next hidden gem. Sleep well, dream deep my Friends.