Pay attention

If you read the news, speak to friends, look at what’s happening around you, it’s hard not to be reminded of the transience and fragility of life. And even if we manage to avoid disaster, accident or misfortune that ends our lives early – even with a long life – we are gone in the blink of an eye.

In the light of this it’s understandable that we’re spooked – rushing and spilling over ourselves to make a mark on the world, or numbing ourselves with our busyness. In the face of our own finitude the contemporary world affords us endless opportunities to scatter ourselves into a million projects and distractions.

But there are parallel paths available to us, that I think are worth returning to, often.

When you eat, just eat.

When you are with another, just be with them.

When you work, just work.

When you read, just read.

When you kiss, just kiss.

When you walk, just walk.

When you arrive in a place, look.

Stop, sometimes, to do nothing apart from paying attention, for longer than you can usually bear.

These are paths to putting things down – outer things, inner things – in order to be in contact with the life we are each in the midst of living, for a while. While we still have it.

None of this comes easily to most of us. We are so practiced at being in a billion places simultaneously. And so we have to consciously take our practice in the other direction. We’re called upon to practice simplicity. To practice being up to one thing at a time.

And to practice paying attention to the exquisite depth of what is, always, right here in front of us.

Photo Credit: Peter Ras via Compfight cc

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