Photo © Jenn Shallvey 2015

Photo © Jenn Shallvey 2015

Through our senses we connect with the world around us and within. What varies form one person to the next is the degree to which we notice.  With attention we can open up to a world of experiences, if we just let ourselves do so. 

To pay attention is to consciously take our focus into our environment and experience through each sense.  An initial stepping point is to be conscious about our attention. The next is to actually then process what comes up.

There are many levels of paying attention. There is a superficial or external level where we notice what is easily observable.  For example our physical appearance may be out of kilter. We notice disorder or uncomfortable states and then try to remedy.   Something as simple as adjusting your clothing or styling your hair can be the answer. Not big impact events. Not really deep and meaningful.

Then there are other levels of noticing. It is the internal level of connection that I am talking about with the words pay attention.  When we really pay attention we access our own insight and intuition through the journey of the senses. The senses act like windows, doors or other entryways. Our senses act like a bridge between our external and internal worlds. Our senses invite us to go within for a greater experience.

Take for example a smell wafting into our space. What happens when we pay attention to the smell?  What do we notice?  Does the smell trigger a positive or negative reaction within? Does the smell remind of us of a memory? Does the smell take us into a fantasy or imagined reality?  What is your association with the smell?

Beyond the external and the internal bridge there is another level. Yes an even deeper level that is accessed by consciously paying attention. Through increased conscious awarenes we also can tune out what we don’t wish to pay attention to. We expand our connection to what is happening in that moment for us.  This is not trite for what you access may be important.

I often find the practice of paying attention one that is most beneficial and supportive when actively in reflection or meditating. Before you say oh I don’t meditate or reflecting sounds so 1960’s navel gazing, let me clarify.  For me meditation can be any practice that we do to stop and be in the moment focusing inward and connecting to a more relaxed and calm state. Reflection initiates internal enquiry for personal clarity and insight.

For example sweeping the driveway, when done in a conscious way, could be considered meditation. A more thoughtful walk on the beach, aided by concentration and focus, supports a meditative practice in your walking.  A couple on the bus may remind you of a past memory. You may then pause and ask yourself ‘what does this connection mean for me?”. It is in these types of situations where I find paying attention powerful and revealing. 

How do you do this?  Well in any situation you ask yourself “What do I notice right now?” This starts at least the internal dialogue in your mind to get to the place where you are beginning to raise awareness of state and environment.  In this practice you are simply seeking.  You get an answer and then ask again “So now what do I notice?”  It is like a chain reaction of revelation and connection.  

So let’s get a little advanced.  Another process is to notice your noticing.  This becomes a bit meta-analytic.  When developing your practice of noticing it does help to be aware of your style or approach.  

It is also helpful to notice what you ignore, avoid or dismiss as insignifcant, too hard or irrelevant. When you pay attention you develop your filters to a higher level such that you see more of what is worth noticing for you.  There is a judgment placed on what we pay attention to. When you suspend judgement and invite curiosity then you open up more possibilities.

I like to look at it from the perspective that we can notice with multiple entry points - ie our mind, body, heart and soul. Many of us will have developed one area over the other. For most our minds are already well developed. This makes observation easy especially when we are in dialogue with ourselves and others.

We can notice through our body. It takes time but is like tuning our awareness. When something happens in our environment or experience we then stop and check in to see if anything shifts, changes or happens in our body.  What you notice will range from subtle to obvious.  Our body also in a way sends messages to us. When we don’t listen our body's 'voice' gets louder and louder. So noticing helps us get on top of issues before they get worse.

We can notice through our heart. Usually this is by way of how we feel.  We can have an emotional response. The key here is to not let the emotional response drive and control us but to experience what it means for us.  Easier said than done for many of us.  Start at least by checking in with what feelings come up.

Lastly we can notice through our spiritual connection.  In this way we go more to our higher senses of what we notice.  Here it is not about being psychic but more about trusting our intuition and listening to this.  As a topic this is worthy of another entire book. For purposes of the words 'pay attention' this way of connecting is included to show you another way of noticing.

Overall the variety and diversity of ways in which we can notice and pay attention enriches our life.   This also means that we can continuously develop and enjoy the growth and benefits of paying attention.  No matter what our skill level or experience we can ALWAYS pay attention. We can choose what we focus on and to what we pay attention, or not. This makes life sooooo much more interesting and fun, doesn’t it?  So pay attention now.