Just paying attention will tell you what bears fruit and what doesn’t. Pay close attention to objects and events that would otherwise get chewed up in the daily grind. ~Kathleen Norris
There’s a movie called Michael in which John Travolta plays the lead character, an angel who has fallen to earth. Michael becomes friendly with a band of locals, who soon discover that he seems to know everything there is to know about the mortal souls around him. When asked how he does it, Michael doesn’t chalk it up to divine superpowers. His simple reply is “I pay attention.”
“Pay attention” is a command we can remember from our earliest days, often coming from the mouth of an angry teacher or parent. In Buddhism there’s a phrase that at first glance seems the same: “Be mindful”. But here the meaning carries a good deal more weight, as mindfulness is deemed “the critical factor in the path to liberation and subsequent enlightenment.”
Whether we’re trying to be mindful or just pay attention, it’s amazing how difficult it can be to follow this simple edict. The distractions in our everyday lives seem to grow by the day. And it can be tough to focus on the things right in front of us, let alone the bigger issues of life that merit a higher level of consideration or true contemplation.
The good news is that with practice, paying attention is possible. As the world zigs by you, it is possible to zag, by taking a break from the unnecessary distractions—by turning off the phone, the TV, the iPod. By manually slowing life down, we find the time to pause, to ponder and to breathe.
When we live our lives at a slower pace, we’re more apt to notice the vital people and small but special moments that are with us everyday. We find that our lives are richer and threaded with more interesting details than we realized.
By becoming active participants in our lives, we see that the happiness we have been chasing has been with us all along.