November 26, 2013

Gratitude and Paying Attention

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It is my fervent hope that if asked what they are grateful for in their lives, most people could start rattling off a long, long list. It is those who are nodding their heads at the thought of this exercise that I’d most want to know. Unquestionably.

My own list is like so many others – I am grateful for my health, my home, my friends, my family. But I took pen to paper and let myself go with this. I enjoyed sitting with it and expressing my appreciation in my notebook. Then I challenged myself to pick one thing I am most grateful for and it boils down to this – attentiveness.

I am ever thankful that one day over a decade ago I realized my soul needed some feeding and that the best way to nourish it was through attentiveness to life. I decided to Live Riveted to that idea, that kind of mindfulness, and make it my way of being.

Every other thing on the gratitude list I created points back to being attentive. I am attentive to so much around me now. Attentive to the striking orange-y pink sunset or the Thoreau quote that is put before me at just the right time. Attentive to pain and what it might be trying to tell me. Attentive to how great the tulips look on my new side table. Attentive to the fact that my friend might appreciate some homemade chicken soup in her fridge after a long plane ride home. Attentive to opening the door for the mother wheeling the stroller. Attentive to how dressing in layers was the perfect choice on a crisp, fall day. Attentive to another’s grief and how the kindest thing I can do is listen. Attentive to an instinct that says it might be best to cross the street.

This is what rings my bell.

These days I am also ultra-attentive to people who go about their lives in gratitude. I can spot them a mile away. It’s like a gravitational pull. You know, the ones grateful the knee feels better today than yesterday or appreciative that the flooded basement wasn’t worse. The ones who can’t believe how lucky they are to get the last table in a coveted restaurant or to be standing before an exceptional work of art or to have raised a child who is thriving in a job that uses her gifts.

Sometimes it’s about being attentive to my own crummy mood and what it means and whether to indulge it or snap myself out of it. That’s important, both to me and to the people I interact with as I go about living.

The other option is being oblivious to what is around me. Oblivious to purpose, to my fellow humans, to blessings, to blue skies with big puffy clouds. Been there, done that. It breeds an existence filled with drudgery and disconnectedness.

Attentiveness, on the other hand, helps cultivate empathy and curiosity and brings a richness to what might otherwise feel mundane. Rapt attention to my pen and notebook every day keeps me engaged and ponderous.

For me it’s a choice of being stimulated or numb the majority of the time. I’m all about the stim and feeling alive, alive, alive.

Life has my attention.

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