Rev. Jennifer Nordstrom, First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee

Permaculture techniques include moving through the world with wide, loose attention to be aware of as much as possible. The method opens the mind to a wider experience of the senses: hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, and feeling more. When I broadened my attention this way, I heard birds cry, and the sound of my own footfalls. I smelled earth, pine needles, and sweetgrass. I saw the ridge of the trees and movement at the edge of my vision. I tasted water in the air and felt the movement of the wind against my skin.

This contrasts with a state of deep attention, zeroing in on a particular piece of the world. When I narrowed my attention, I noticed individual things with more depth: a clover, a dewdrop, a spider web.

How do you balance wide attention with deep attention in your own life? How do you manage the precious resource of your attention? In our congregation, we are learning to widen our attention to include more people, as well as deepen our attention to our values. It is a challenging balance in an individual life, let alone in a large community. I hope we can see this work as practice, rather than perfection, learning rather than mastery, and engage in it with humility and compassion.


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