The Art of Paying Attention
“Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.” ~Jose Ortega y Gassett
For a movement centered on simplicity, there sure are a lot of complexities involved in learning to live a simpler life. The more we explore, the more we learn, the more layers we drill down in to, the more there is to consider.
Is simple living about sustainability or productivity? Or is it about spirituality or creativity?
Parenting, decluttering, learning, self-improvement, personal development, generosity, empathy, change, the pace at which we’re living or the technology that crowds our days? Any of these? All of them? Or perhaps none at all?
Honestly, that depends on what matters to you. What’s at the centre of your life.
I’ve realised over the past couple of years that so much of simple living is in the art of noticing, of stopping long enough to attend to the beauties — both large and tiny —that surround us.
In fact, if I had to sum up slower, simpler living in one idea it would be this: become a noticer. Slow down and pay attention.
Without doubt there is a cost involved in paying attention (the payment is usually one of time) but it’s not nearly as much as we imagine — because there is also a cost involved in not paying attention, and that cost is far steeper.
That cost sees us miss out on so much, of glimpses and shadows and easily missed kindnesses, sun flare and giggles and an ant going about her business. Connection and love and wonder as well.
When I’ve spent my time noticing, I’ve been rewarded — not in riches or Instagrammable displays of success, but in depth and joy and beauty. Noticing costs time, absolutely, but it also gives us time.
When we’re lost in the work of the bumblebee or the drift of the clouds or the delicate lines around the eyes of our most loved person, nothing else is urgent. Nothing else jostles for your attention. There is only noticing.
After that, it may be back to multi-tasking or child-juggling, but even those moments of busy-ness are viewed through a new lens of noticing. While we may feel hectic or harried, we also carry with us the tiny joys and wonders of our attention. And that, right there, is simplicity in action.
Become a noticer and pay attention to:
- the food you eat, how it tastes and how it makes you feel
- words and how they sound
- the ever shifting shape of clouds
- the individual petals of a flower and the sacks of pollen on a bees leg as they drift from bloom to bloom
- sunlight through leaves
- the way your child reaches for you, knowing you’ll be there
- the warmth of an inside joke with someone you love
- the sounds of a sleeping household or rain or your breath or a beautiful piece of music
Pay attention to what the world is trying to show you.
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