Monday, September 28, 2015

Paying Attention to Life

"Wonder and Awe"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

After dinner last evening as I was “killing some time” by watching a rather mindless TV show, when I heard my wife call out to me: “Quickly come here, you have to see this!”  At first I was a bit annoyed at the interruption, but when I went outdoors and we looked up into the star-studded desert skies,  I almost melted at the “awesome” beauty of an eclipsed “supermoon” hanging like a jeweled ornament in the star-studded desert skies. If my wife hadn’t interrupted my “mindlessness" by calling my attention to the skies, I would have missed it all.

That experience last evening gave me a flash of insight as nature once again was teaching me an important lesson about mindful living and reminding me to pay attention to my life as it is revealed to me in each and every present moment.

It’s interesting to me that throughout most of my life I believed that somehow my various spiritual practices were supposed to help me withdraw from the outside world. I always went inside a church to pray, shutting the doors to the world that went on outside those doors, and when I would pray I would always close my eyes.

In fact to this very day I have to fight against old habits when I go out to my garden for my daily time of quiet meditation. I have to fight against the idea that meditation somehow helps me to withdraw from the world so that I might enter a place inside myself. I actually think the path of my meditation pulls me in the opposite direction. 

Sitting quietly I unclutter my mind so that, grounded in the moment, I can pay attention to the world, aware of life as it happening.  

Buddhist author and ecologist, Susan Murphy, offers this extremely insightful understanding of what meditation and mindful living is ultimately all about:

Meditation is the act of paying reality the courtesy of wonder,
a curiosity that is sometimes called non-judgmental attention,

Yesterday as I gazed in awe and wonder at that moon in the desert skies, I became very acutely aware that “meditation” is not something I do in my garden every morning -  it is a “way” of living life. Rather than frittering away my life by “killing time” yesterday reminded me once again to live life by paying closer attention to it – to whatever comes along.

When I pay attention to my life I don’t always encounter breathtaking beauty in clear cosmic skies, sometimes the skies are dark and stormy, sometimes life is filled with chaos, angst, sickness and sadness- but I must try to pay attention to it all, because every moment has something to teach me.  

I must pay attention to the darkness and the dryness that inevitably comes my way and give it the same degree of attention I give to the beauty and the light. When I do this, I am always given what I need to live fully and to grow in the way of wisdom and truth.

Susan Murphy also says this of living everyday:

Don’t miss anything.
Everything counts, everyone counts.
Find out what it all means and do what it wants of you.

I don’t do a lot of my praying inside churches anymore these days; and most of the time I go outdoors to meditate. I always keep my eyes open.

The poet Emily Dickinson once said:

Life is so astonishing,
it leaves very little time for anything else.


  1. I just love this Paul. There is such a big push in most mindfulness books and courses that says mindfulness is all about the meditation practice. And by practicing you are supposed to get better at it. I think formal meditation is incredibly helpful at times, it encourages stillness in a busy world, but like you I feel there is so much out there to be aware of. An abundance in our lives if we keep our eyes open. Thank you. Sheridan xx

    1. Once again I am very thankful for your insights...Paul