How I learned to pay attention.

Thank you to my friend and guest blogger, Brad Wagner, for this week’s wonderful post.  Brad is a loyal person, a stand up guy– Deb and I would call him a Mensch.  Brad sees good and possibility in people, and acknowledges it freely- encouraging those around him when they most need it, and even when they don’t.  He is an advocate for women, for people really, and a blessing to those fortunate to call him “friend.”

Here’s Brad on how the US Hostage Crisis in Iran taught him to pay attention:

Brad and Kiki’s happy, healthy, well-loved and attended children! Photo courtesy Meg Golden, www.mgoldenphoto.com.

Brad and Kiki’s happy, healthy, well-loved and attended children! Photo courtesy Meg Golden, http://www.mgoldenphoto.com.

January, 1981.  I was 7 years old and had no grasp on the political situation; I only knew that it was important that the hostages had been released.  I felt it necessary to thank someone, so that evening I thanked God.  It felt good.  I practiced this each night after climbing into bed and the reflection elicited a certain calm while etching in me an acute awareness of how lucky I was.  I began to consciously and consistently review the important people, places, and things in my life which contemporaneously resulted in my identifying that which did not matter.  Mitigating derisory distractions helped me invest my attention and energy where it mattered most.

What matters most has changed, as one would expect, as I have.  Years of self-reflection have provided clarity into my most important blessings.  But what then?  My thoughts of gratitude—clear as they are—mean little unless they manifest with passion and purpose.  If something truly matters, what am I doing about it?  How do I know what do?

I pay attention.

I pay attention to my wife, Kiki, and to what is and is not important to her.  I pay attention to her words, her actions, her cares and concerns.  I pay attention to her features, her body, mind, and spirit.  I pay attention to our marriage and the love and the lives that we are building and sharing.  I’m far from perfect, but I try.

Brad, Kiki (whose beautiful heart makes her the center of lots of love, friendship and community) with their kids. I just want to hug this whole family!!!! Photo courtesy of Meg Golden, www.mgoldenphoto.com.

Brad, Kiki (whose beautiful heart makes her the center of lots of love, friendship and community) with their kids. I just want to hug this whole family!!!! Photo courtesy of Meg Golden, http://www.mgoldenphoto.com.

I pay attention to my children, to their health, talents, and abilities.  I pay attention to their stories and jokes, to their homework, practices, recitals, and games.  I pay attention to their food choices and their artwork, to their accomplishments and setbacks.  I pay attention to their sensitivities and their fears, their hopes and their dreams.  I pay attention to the words they hear, the actions they see, and the time they spend.  That Kiki handily outshines me this category serves as a challenge to redouble my efforts.

I pay attention to my faith, to the beauty all around me, to the good and the light, to the words and writings of those who are wiser than I.  I pay attention to honesty, integrity, and kindness, to the simple and the magnificent.  I pay attention to those who are enduring the loss, pain, or disappearance of a loved one, to those who suffer and struggle.  I pay attention to forgiveness.

I pay attention to my country, to the abundance, freedoms, and liberties we enjoy.  I pay attention to the sacrifices made by so many so that we might have so much.

Alison Bonds Shapiro, author of Healing into Possibility, describes attention as “noticing and being with something without trying to change it.  Attention takes the time to fully explore, to discover whatever there is to know about something, to watch as things change by themselves without our trying to ‘fix’ anything.  Attention is patient and attention is kind.  No rush.  No burden.  No criticism.”

What better way to show gratitude than to pay attention?  From attention comes action and that allows me to answer the constant question: “What am I doing about it?”

I no longer pray in the evening—fueling my soul with the strength to do something about that which matters most to me and then dissolving into sleep seemed counterproductive.  Mornings are a more appropriate time to begin, and each day brings new opportunities to pay attention.

How do you slow yourself down to pay attention to life as it happens around you?  I always love to hear your stories! @CoreyJamisonLLC

This blog was originally published by the Times Union and can be accessed here.

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