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Personal & Spiritual Development

Dena’s Digressions – Attention

Barbara Brown Taylor wrote in her book, An Altar in the World, “Paying attention requires no equipment, no special clothes, no greens fees or personal trainers. You do not even have to be in particularly good shape. All you need is a body on this earth, willing to notice where it is.”

Where is your body today and what do you notice? I notice the golden October sun streaming through my window and a cat cleaning her satiny fur in the sunshine. The neighbors’ trees are dropping their leaves for me to rake onto my flower beds. The smell of decomposing leaves rises while I’m raking and I fall in love with the world again. I notice the purple aster, the red-orange nasturtiums, the maroon chrysanthemum. I see a female goldfinch pecking on the last of the chard in my garden. I know the earthworms move in the moist soil. And the slugs vow to fight me for my vegetables again next year—I can hear them plotting their strategy!

It comforts me to recall that I don’t have to be in good shape or even feel cheerful to pay attention to where I am and behold what surrounds me. All I need is to come back into my body on this earth, open my senses. Hearing birdsong and traffic. Seeing beautiful blue sky out the window and the dirty dishes in the sink. Touching the warm hand of a loved one or the frost on a pumpkin. Smelling the rosemary and sage as I toss it into the soup. Tasting tart cranberry or a bitter cup of green tea. Paying attention brings me into the present moment, connecting me to what is real, ever-changing and everlasting. Because we can always bring our attention back, however far it may wander.

When the spare brown November trees dominate our view in the coming weeks, may we remember that we paid attention to the glorious colors as they fell. We rejoiced. We were grateful. And we know that they will come again.

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