Paying Attention

Sometimes it’s the seemingly minute changes that have the biggest impact. In astrology, the outer planet transits (Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto) account for the circumstantial, whether expected or unexpected: a job offer that precipitates a cross-country move, entering into a marriage, becoming a mother or father, losing a parent, an illness. These transits are often beyond our control, sometimes taking years to integrate into the psyche. They frame the story of our lives.

 

Personal planets (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus + Mars), however, account for the choices we make every day: where we buy our coffee, who we notice across a crowded room, the way we craft an email or a text, our style and manner of dress. These are not unimportant. In truth, these seemingly minute decisions and inclinations form the backbone of our personality – and our life. They’re the meat of our chart.

 

I used to move around quite a bit and wherever I would land – from New York City to Washington, D.C. to Florence, Italy – I would habituate myself by finding a local coffee shop. I craved the sense of home it would bring. I would immerse myself in the local community, finding solace in familiar faces and morning conversations. Though my life was chaotic, I could always count on my morning ritual to ground me. But now that I’ve set up camp in Los Angeles for the past decade, committed and unable to travel as often as I would like, I find myself reversing this habit. Now, it’s the daily novelties I crave. It’s as if I am trying to remain awake every moment of every day.

 

When we become stuck in a routine, nearly unthinking our way to Starbucks for our morning cup of Joe, we can stop noticing the world around us. We may fantasize about enormous gains – a luxury retreat in New Zealand, a dreamy romantic liaison, a new wardrobe – but often it is our response to our everyday experiences that pave the way for such desired dreams to manifest. And sometimes what we think we need is to pack our bags and fly to Rome, but more often than not, what we’re truly seeking is internal – a deeper sense of connection and aliveness.

 

I have always been a believer of miracles. We get a hunch to turn a specific corner and, lo and behold, we run into an old friend who had been featured in a dream the night before. We find ourselves tuning the radio to a song that details exactly what we need to hear. A delayed check arrives just in time to pay our bills. These things do occur, but they require a certain kind of attentiveness and presence.

 

Mary Oliver, the beloved New England poet, wrote “to pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” Sometimes, to shake things up, really, what we need is to cultivate an almost poetic awareness of what is.

 

Life-altering changes are inevitable. It’s part of being human. At some point, we’re knocked off balance by the unexpected, even if it’s something we hoped, dreamed, and planned for. Life never goes exactly as we imagine it will. And that’s the thrill of it. We never know when lightning will strike. Or how it will feel when it does.

 

But in those moments between, when we’re fading, when life can feel a little dull and uninspired, there is still beauty (and excitement) to be found. Sometimes, if we make just one small shift externally – the way we take our coffee, the shirt we decide to wear, taking note of a person we may not have noticed before – we often begin to experience a shift internally. Something opens up. A block is removed. Our defenses soften. And, almost miraculously, the world follows suit.

 

After all, isn’t life, really and truly, found in the every day? In the string of occurrences that become our narrative and the story we tell? And isn’t that why we’re here—to experience life as fully and openly as we can, to be present for these moments? And mustn’t that begin with paying attention?

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3 responses to Paying Attention

Love how you creatively describe paying attention. So easy to understand reality from your interpretation with your words.

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