Benign Assumption to Exquisite Attention

With no sense of boundaries, to say nothing of the fact that we all live in the reality of a world wide pandemic, this individual walked right up to the door of my vehicle as I was disembarking. “Hey! I’m really interested in your rig – mind telling me about it!” The person asked in a way that felt more like a demand. I quickly tried to get my bearings, as in feet on the ground and figure out what they were so persistently seeking from me. “Sure, but I only have a minute because I’m meeting someone for a hike.” As both of us stood at the threshold of this incredible vista, the person blurted out in a very dismissive tone, “I live here – I am so over this!!!” Completely dumbfounded, I answered a few basic questions about my vehicle before my hiking companion arrived providing my much desired escape hatch.

As we began down the trail, while my encounter with the inquisitive person had come to an end, I was still musing on the words in the midst of such immense beauty, “I am so over this!” My ponderings evolved into thinking about where in my own life might I be living in a space of “I am so over this”. I began to think about places, people, experiences that, if I was completely honest, I experienced much of through the lens of benign assumption rather than paying attention to all that I was experiencing.

What I continue to learn is that to move from assumption to paying attention is a discipline. And that the deepest level of paying attention is an embodied experience. It is intentionally pausing and opening yourself to all of your senses, to your mind, body and soul. One of the things I used to challenge young leaders at camp to do was to truly pay attention to every camper, every activity, and the amazing natural beauty they were privileged to be in. As a leader, I learned early on how quickly you can move from the awe of the incredible ‘thing’ you get to be a part of to being totally immersed in making said ‘thing’ happen.

Friend and colleague Barbara Brown Taylor as usual offers a helpful narrative for me, “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.”

Exquisite attention…

A wise elder once shared with me, “Pinch yourself every once in while to make sure you’re not missing the blessing of the present moment.” The clear invitation is to a life not of assumption but of paying attention to all that life has to offer.

3 thoughts on “Benign Assumption to Exquisite Attention”

  1. Michael K Daley

    Thank you Brian. I can never be “over this”, especially when around me there are people to love and support, and people who love and support me as human beings.

  2. Victor R Hubbard

    A large part of why I do photography is the excuse it gives me to pause, reflect and take in all that is around me. I love to live in a state of awe of this particular moment. I love that I’m likely seeing things most of us don’t notice. Sometimes I get goosebumps when I’m able to really be present.

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