The True Cost of Paying Attention

Last month I sat in ceremony with a Pipe Carrier of the Lakota nation and one of her messages to me was to "pay attention".

In my typical stubborn fashion I thought, "what is she talking about? I listen! I'm attentive!" I had to sit with this direction for a minute because until that moment I was certain I had been paying attention. I mean, I strive to live each breath in the moment, I listen inwardly so deeply that I swear I've heard the back side of my heart beating lol...you get the picture.

My personal chatter aside, I am a dutiful student; so I went home to sit and pay attention rather than "just listen". What I learned is that paying attention demands the collaboration of all of your senses whereas listening only requires the calibration of your ears to your brain.

Like Yoga, 'paying attention' is a full body experience, but rather than pulling away from the distractions—the sounds, sights, smells, and tastes around you—you sit in awe of them. You watch the beauty, the dance, the weaving of the story that is your present, and you learn that you truly can be in and of this world and not be crushed by it. Paying attention is truly one of the most beautiful practices I have explored and worth the cost of participation. Whoa! Wait. What?!...cost? Yeah, about that...stay with me.

I invite you to pay attention in small doses. You'll know that you are paying attention when you have aligned 100 percent of your sense experience to one thing. Brushing your teeth. Notice the sound of the bubbles swishing, the feel of the brush, the taste and smell of the paste, the smell of room you are in, the movements of your elbow, wrist, neck and shoulders, see how beautiful you truly are in the mirror...do not criticize...See. Stand and pay attention to brushing your teeth. Eating. Notice the colors of the vibrant food on your plate, smell the aromas, listen to the click of silverware, the sound of your own chewing, feel the nourishment move down your throat...accept the nourishment and be grateful. And here's another one...pay attention to your life partner. Just sit and see them (notice I didn't say 'watch' them), listen to their sounds, feel their skin, and listen to their heart beat. Take these small doses. Small practices.

If you're doing it "right", you'll soon discover that there is a 'cost' to paying attention. I imagine that's because there is no other way to "attend"...you must pay it or give it. If you are truly paying attention to one thing, you are not mindlessly doing another like watching tv while eating or reading while listening to music or texting while talking to your partner. It's one thing at a time. Think of this as preemptive practice, very much like meeting yourself on your yoga mat. It's challenging, time consuming, and will draw you away from something else, but the benefits are immeasurable. The return on this investment is layers of richness in clarity, simplicity, appreciation, acceptance, and connection.

Delve further into the website (under the heading Spirit) to find out how you can deepen your relationship with this practice.