Did you know that attention can be one of the greatest gifts you could offer either to yourself or others? In this short article I am going to explore the idea that we can offer our attention to living beings or inanimate things in order to nourish them.
Offering Attention to Living Beings
Listening to someone – that’s a very kind thing to do. Do you remember the last time when another person really listened to you? How did this make you feel? In my case it made me feel respected, seen, heard and above all… loved. I found this to be a very nourishing and uplifting experience. There was this other person, devoid of the need to answer or be clever – he was just here with me, in this moment. I could empty my troubled heart and felt fully received as a human being.
The secret to this healing experience was the pure power of receptivity present within the listener. If we pay attention to something – whether it’s a piece of art, a simple conversation or the presence of another being – we nourish it. Our openness can help another being to unburden him or herself. It can help others to see themselves more clearly and it can even invoke a calm sense of presence within those who are familiar with such states. It is like a magical potion that injects life into what a dull mind would often perceive as “ordinary”.
Thus I consider the greatest gift that we can offer another being our undivided and clear attention. It helps our friends and family members to feel heard and respected – so they don’t have to raise their voices in anger. And it even helps to solve conflicts – large or small. Such consideration is the gateway to understanding. And understanding can lead to sensible solutions in all kinds of scenarios. To me the definition of conflict is two people or more trying to receive attention from the other unsuccessfully. The end of conflict would arise if one party decides to really listen for the sake of understanding.
Offering Attention to Inanimate Objects
If you are a skilled artist or craftsman you will know the role of attention in your work. Those who produce amazing things are doing so with the help of clear mental presence. They know where to direct this power. It helps them to perceive and work with details that an inattentive person would easily miss. Whether it’s your mum cooking that famous favorite dish of yours with love or a great artist painting a masterpiece – devotion to what they do right now is the secret ingredient.
Yet attention must come together with kindness if you want to achieve work that truly moves the heart. If it’s devoid of love, warmth and kindness it is direction without purpose. Paying attention is a potent ingredient in all our doings, but kindness gives it the necessary direction and makes it a superpower. Creating a piece of art requires attention, creating a transformative piece of art requires attention and kindness working hand in hand.
It is by being fully devoted to the present action that we empower our action. Those who are in alignment with what they are doing – skillful or unskillful – add energy to their activity. Therefore I often check in with myself and ask “what am I doing right now?” This helps me with becoming aware of my current direction and adjust it accordingly. It helps me to shift my attention in ways that are constructive and beneficial.