Increasingly, I am convinced that the most important spiritual practice there is is to pay attention. In fact, 75% of what I do in Spiritual Direction is to companion people in such a way that I help them learn how to pay attention - to their thoughts, their wants, their bodies, their emotions, their longings! It is amazing how much of life is lived hypnotically and unaware. And when I am unaware of life, I miss the many invitations to love and beauty that God is generously offering throughout the moments of my day.
How does one begin to pay attention?
The first step is to slow down. Seriously. It is hard to live in intentional, compassionate and non-judgmental awareness when you are living too quickly. Life IS in the ordinary moments of our days...in the now. If we rush past these moments, then we miss living. We miss what is right in front of us for the hope of a future ideal.
The second step is to use all your senses. Today, before you eat - take a deep whiff of your food...feel the textures with your hands and in your mouth. Take small bites and savor the flavors. The best exercise I know with this is to take a peelable piece of fruit (banana, orange, etc). Set a timer for 5 minutes and "explore" the fruit using your eyes, ears, nose, hands, and mouth.
The third step is to explore the ordinary. As the quote above says - when people asked Jesus where to find God, Jesus often pointed to everyday, common things like mustard seeds, birds, bread dough, flowers, etc. Try this practice every day for a few moments - to slow down and explore something very "common" in your day - a piece of fruit, tree bark, a puppy dog, a piece of art.
These rhythms of slowing, living sensually (using your all your senses) and with curiousity toward the ordinary are great ways to learn deeper attentiveness. Let us know what you are discovering and/or the questions you might have in the comments below
What is saving my life now is the conviction that there is no spiritual treasure to be found apart from the bodily experiences of human life on earth. My life depends on engaging the most ordinary physical activities with the most exquisite attention I can give them. My life depends on ignoring all touted distinctions between the secular and the sacred, the physical and the spiritual, the body and the soul. What is saving my life now is becoming more fully human, trusting that there is no way to God apart from real life in the real world ~ Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World