What do you pay attention to?
When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses, Moses Exodus 3:4
I'm reading the book "Anatomy of the Soul" by Curt Thompson MD. The subtitle is "surprising connections between neuroscience and spiritual practices that can transform your life and relationships." One chapter is titled Are you paying attention. And Thompson starts by telling the story of Moses approacing the burning bush. God doesn't speak to him until he has his attention. Thompson goes to state that "When God talks and we attentively lisen, wonderful, beautiful, terrifying things happen."
But how observant are we? I know I have not seen any non burnt burning bushes in my travels. But have I missed other communications from God by not observing and being tuned into nudges, beauty, my own emotions and physical reactions to things? I know that even my family knows when I answer with a mindless uh-huh to their bids for attention, my mind completely somewhere else. I suspect that I have responded to God in that same way.
Developing an awareness, a knowing is part of the three step transformational Metanoia process. The first is to Know. Do we know ourselves well enough, the emotions we try to push down or avoid, the situations we avoid. Do we pay attention to God asking us to rest to meet with Him or are we so distracted or so avoidant of anything that might bring discomfort that we miss important cues to our own growth, healing and even communion with God? As we recognize this tendency to distract or avoid, we can utilize tools to change our behaviors.
There is much interest in Mindfulness practices currently in various arenas. It is an important tool in the field of mental health, to teach people how to focus their attention and notice how the mind wanders, to non judgementally bring it back to focus. That focus can be internally on thoughts or feelings or an specific focus on the five senses. The point is to learn that we often go about our days mindlessly. We can eat, and drive and even present to our families in a mindless distracted manner. To teach the mind to observe, to stay focused, teaches the mind to stay in the present rather than glom onto thoughts and worries of the future, or regrets of the past that we can't seem to let go of. Staying present can also make us aware of small nuances in our own thoughts and bodies. or even tune into others as well. Staying present while we eat can add a layer of enjoyment to the pleasure of food can help us tune in to our own hunger cues.
We are distracted, and there are a million things that clamour for our attention on a daily basis. I firmly believe if we don't have tools to tune out the noise, to be more intentionally observant, we will miss knowing ourselves, our people, and potentially our God.
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