The Gift of Attention

Cat looking at a fish bowl

Attention is the most basic form of love. Through it we bless and are blessed. ~John Tarrant

Attention is an abundant resource available to all of us. And because of its nature of being easily accessible, we tend to take it for granted. We forget that attention is as precious as life itself.

We experience life by paying attention to our mind, senses, and emotions. Attention shapes our attitudes, forms beliefs and reinforces our interpretations of events—it is the essence of who we become.

Attention is the act of attending. To attend to something is to care greatly for it … to be present.

Attention is concentration of the mind—a single unadulterated focus … a state of consciousness.

Attention is the energy of observation, of taking notice, of experiencing life.

Attention is the ultimate and most truthful reflection of our priorities and who we are.

Attention is one of the best and most generous gifts we can give—to ourselves and others.

Before we give it though, we need to shed light on how we’ve been using it.

Where does our attention go to most of the time?

It’s probably alternating between a constant stream of thoughts (most of which are useless or negative) and emotions (most of which we don’t want).

Today I invite you to consciously refocus your attention and use it as the incredibly valuable resource that it is.

With the holidays approaching and the gift-giving season in full swing, why not give something that has more meaning than anything material—attention.

This is not an invitation to stop all forms of material gifts. Do what you feel is right for you, buy presents, but give the act your full and best attention.

We do say it’s the thought behind the gift that counts.

If we look deeper into the statement above, the thought is focused attention on something we want to get for someone. Then we expend the money and energy to buy it.

We do give attention but in most cases it is considered a secondary gesture.

Let’s start today by consciously making attention the first and foremost important gift and everything else comes after.

Attention to ourselves

Attention is not only a gift you can give to others, but also one that you can most definitely give to yourself, as an act of love and care. And like so many things we have, the more consciously we use it, the better we become at utilizing it.

So from this day on, give yourself the best attention you can afford (and you can afford a lot).

We can attend to ourselves in many ways.

Attending to the body

Turn your life into a sensual experience, with one decadent treat after the other.

Feel the texture and softness of your skin. Listen to the rhythm of your heart, the grumbling of your stomach, the sound of your voice … truly listen. Look at yourself and see the beauty of creation that is you. Move with focus and appreciate the complexity of every movement. Taste every bite and every sip. Relax, rest and sleep.

Whatever you do, give it your full attention as if your life depends on it. In a way, it does. Excess is born out of inattention.

Paying attention to the mind

To pay attention to your mind allow yourself to explore new things. Ignite your curiosity by reading new things or exploring new hobbies and interests.

Attending to the mind means clearing the residual gunk of the past.

When negative thoughts or emotions come to the surface, give them your attention—without judgment.

We’re always adding something to our minds. It’s better to not crowd it with needless things, to the best of our abilities. And that is something that attention does.

Attending to your heart and soul

Attend to your relationships and nourish your heart and soul. When you’re with yourself, be fully with you—not wishing or counting the minutes to be somewhere else. A few minutes a day of solitude can restore your sense of being.

The soul seeks comfort and peace. And we can attend to that by reflecting, journaling, meditating, yoga, prayer, reading. Whatever your soul seeks, your attention can provide.

Attention to others

The most important form of attention to give others is to be (fully be) there for them—mind, body, heart, and soul.

When we see our loved ones during the holidays, we can be fully there, not just out of obligation or guilt. We are where we want to be.

This can become a practice for all other interactions, when we meet our friends, talk to our parents or children.

When we give attention we feel more compassion, instead of judgment. We meet others with understanding and appreciation instead of expectations and disappointment.

Attention to life and our surroundings

Notice with all your being the colors and energy of the seasons. Tend to the beauty and intricate details of nature—the mighty trees yielding to the wind, the birds migrating and seeking refuge, rain drops, snow flakes.

Look deeply into the chaos and order, the pain and joy, the challenges and triumphs, the creative genius of humanity and unfathomable ability to destroy—the ebbs and flows of the tides of life.

The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself. ~Henry Miller

Attention is authentic focus. You might be able to force yourself to focus on something you don’t value, but only for a short time. It cannot be sustained.

Over time you will notice (pay more attention to) the things that are important to you and the relationships that matter. This is a practice for life.

Meditation can be viewed as the conscious placement of attention on something other than thought.

Expanding on this definition, paying attention to ourselves, others, and the world is a meditation on life—a gift of consciousness, kindness and the truest form of living.