Attention is the key for me, the beginning of devotion, the start of prayer, the way I settle in to meditation, how yoga starts, what love is. It is where any meeting starts, what fuels a really good conversation, and what helps me develop excellence.
Love is attention.
When I am distracted from what I love, I am off the rails.
I grew up in a family of alcoholics. There was always something more interesting for the adults in my life, more interesting than me, a kid. That is how I felt, though it took me years to understand that my adults were much distracted. It was in Al-Anon, the 12-Step program for families and friends of alcoholics that helped me understand the value of attention and what is mine to tend to and what is not my business. I learned it in their 6th Tradition.
Tradition 6 from Al-Anon: Our Family Groups ought never endorse, finance or lend our name to any outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary spiritual aim.
Al-Anon’s 6th Tradition guides an organization that generates healing for families torn apart by addiction. But is also offers a tenet that guides me in my daily life.
My primary spiritual aims are as a human and citizen on this planet, as a woman, as a partner and mother, as an artist and writer, and as a business owner. When something diverts me from my primary aims, I am moving away from my soul purpose.
I sense it more and more, how distraction undermines attention.
Go ahead and name your distraction, we all have them.
Some are guilty pleasures, which are worth indulging in from time to time.
Others can become obsessive and time sucking and will bore holes in to your day, your soul, your relationships, and the quality of your presence in the world.
To keep my attention keen, I do several things daily:
- I meditate. I am not perfect at this, but it is a practice, not an Olympic feat. I use the Insight Timer app on my phone or just light a candle and sit and breathe for 12 minutes.
- I do yoga. It gives my body something really good to do and my mind relaxes. Anything that slows my breathing down, like walking, cultivates attention.
- I spend time outdoors every single day.
- I leave my phone at home. I turn my computers off. I read books. I knit. I do things that slow me down and strengthen my ability to focus, to ponder, to dream.
I live by what my attention is worth spending on.
This is key to my daily creative practice, and at the core of everything I teach.
We are what we pay attention to.
I harness my attention to what I love, rather than on what distracts.
I want to be remembered as someone who pays attention.
Not as someone who had better things to do than be in the present.
Instagram is fun.
Facebook is a wild ride.
Pinterest is a zoo.
Twitter is a riot.
I enjoy social media and use them as tools. If they become distracting I step away from them. This is hard, especially when the world is so chaotic and newsworthy. I use an egg timer, and set it for 10 minutes. I get on and off social media like a public transport vehicle. I take it for a short ride. I don't get on the social media bus and ride it all day long.
I measure myself a full cup of forgiveness when life is rocky, when there are upsets personally or publicly that drag my attention away.
And I treat my attention like an honored guest, I cultivate habits that tell my body and mind it is time to focus. Steaming cups of tea, candles lit, or ten slow breaths alert my inner world that the time has come.
Real life, in real time, straight up, no ice.