|Photo by Patricia Mahan|
My friend Patricia’s attention was on the intriguing rustic doorways and windows along a steep cobblestone street in the historical mining town of Real de Catorce, Mexico. Because of her attention, she captured this photograph of late afternoon sun streaming over the flowers on the table. A moment or two later, this scene had disappeared.
Until I heard her say, “Oh, look!” my attention was on my sore knees and making it up the hill. My husband's attention was on pushing himself to the top and strengthening his leg muscles, his Rocky-like yell announcing his accomplishment. Patricia's husband was, well, I wasn't paying attention so I'm not sure where he was at that point in time.
Traveling has a way of muting the everyday noise of our everyday lives and awakening our habit-numbed senses. New sights and sensations beckon our attention around each corner.
Having just experienced three days of walking through magnificent ruins, watching wind-driven cloud patterns over the mountains, enjoying the mouth-watering flavors and aromas of our host's Italian cooking, and marveling at the Chinese red trim in the town's cathedral hinting at the presence of Chinese laborers during the mine's heyday, I felt a lightness and calmness, a lessening of those feelings that I should be doing something else or be somewhere else.
Would I be able to stay attentive during daily routine and whatever else popped up after I returned home? This is what happened:
• Listening to people, I could hear the feelings and meanings left unspoken between their words. This is a large part of my work as a coach, though this week it was more accessible, more flowing.
• Walking in the local wildlife reserve, I heard the wind blowing through rows of corn. The sound had the same syncopation as a hard rain.
• On several occasions, my ability to stay grounded and listen as others spoke their view of things was more pronounced in its ease and naturalness.
• Taking in the colors of the late summer wildflowers, the coolness of the breeze and the warmth of the sun on my back while walking the dogs, attention gifted me with the surprise of a red dragonfly balanced on the tip of a half-submerged reed.
• The noisy chatter of brain-produced, random thoughts was less intrusive during my morning gratefulness meditation.
• My body awareness was heightened—I felt and “heard” what it was telling me: more sleep, stand up straight, the right shoulder is listing to starboard again.
The answer to my question? A resounding YES. I'm able to stay more fully in each moment by putting my attention on attention, traveling to what's happening right in front of me.
Nancy G. Shapiro is a coach and writer who conducts writing and well-being retreats at LifePath Center www.lifepathretreats.com and other locales.