This questions could be answered so many different ways and many of us have different answers based on our circumstances and life experiences. However, I believe that there are essential ways of paying attention that can allow us to experience the richness and beauty of life. One practice that has significant value to me is remembering to have gratitude.
As I was driving today, I was reminded of a moment that I shared with my four year old son Carter. We admired the beauty of a sunrise. Reminding Carter that being grateful is important, reminds me to have gratitude.
It is hard to remember what’s important when we are faced with stress, pain, illness or loss. When you are under stress how do you respond? Many of us are scurrying around trying to solve our problem as quickly as possible. Who could blame us? We just want to feel good. Often we are seeking positive feelings through some form of distraction, which often cheapens our present moment.
Mindfulness is a tool that is cultivated in the present moment that can all use to allow us to pay attention to the things that are most important to us. What matters most is otherwise known as intention. Having a specific intention can fuel the way you are paying attention. Of course we will have split attention and forget what matters, but how many moments do you want to spend ignoring the beauty around you? To practice mindfulness, simply notice when you have slipped into a negative state and notice how your body is feeling and reacting to the current stress. Allow the feelings to be present and observe your process without judging or criticizing harshly. “Who is unhappy? One who judges” Anonymous. After allowing your feelings to dissipate naturally, then choose what you would like to entertain. At first it may seem like an uphill road, but neuroscience has shown that we can rewire the pathways in our brains by consciously choosing to to be mindful day after day. What initially seems foreign will become a familiar friend. I would like to hear what matters most to you? How do you make remember your intentions? Do you make it a regular practice in your life?
An excerpt from Mary Oliver,
“I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”