The Basic Practice

Attention is also known as mindfulness, awareness, concentration, recollection. It is a primary practice, and not just alphabetically. We must stay alert or we risk missing critical elements of the spiritual life — moments of grace, opportunities for gratitude, evidence of our connections to others, signs of the presence of Spirit. The good news is that attention can be practiced anywhere, anytime, in the daily rounds of our lives.

Begin by doing one thing at a time. Keep your mind focused on whatever you happen to be doing at the moment. It is through the mundane and the familiar that we discover a world of ceaseless wonders. Train yourself to notice details.

Why This Practice May Be For You

Most of us have exhibited the symptoms of lack of attention at one time or another. It's actually harder to stay awake than we might think. Perhaps we are easily distracted by trivial pursuits, attracted to any media message, ready to jump into any conversation, or susceptible to periods of endless surfing through the information and choices available to us.

Eventually, without awareness, we end up living in a daze of stimulation without any grasp of its significance. We are operating on automatic pilot. Because nothing really registers on our consciousness, we feel drained of energy.

Sometimes, however, not paying attention has just the opposite effect: everything registers, and we find we don't know what to do with it all. We are so bombarded with stimuli that we can't focus on anything. We feel scattered. We are, to put it simply, stressed.

For both lack of energy and stress, attention is a good corrective prescription.

Daily Cue, Reminder, Vow, Blessing

  • The ring of a telephone is a cue for me to practice attention.
  • When I watch a musician, I am reminded of the importance of focused attention.
  • Greeting a family member, friend, or colleague in the morning, I vow to be attentive to his or her needs today.
  • Blessed is God who has given us attention as a tool for discovery and caring.