When I haven’t written for a while, it is as if the stream dries up.
The lack of care and attention to the muse, means that the stream starts to seep quietly underground. I know it is there, it hasn’t vanished forever, but it goes very quiet and I cannot even perceive it until I stop everything else and start to listen. I need to be willing to hear nothing, just hang in the empty space. I need to wait, and I need to remember that it works by magic, and it is a precious opportunity to love.
It seems to me that all things thrive when they are given loving, spacious, attuned attention. And that in the lack of attention and interest they go dormant. Or start to run amok! What is neglected either dies, retreats or kicks up a storm.
When I stopped holding back, began writing this blog and got onto a roll, something extraordinary started to happen. I felt something come alive in me; the more I gave attention to the process of writing on a daily basis, even if for a short time, the more material started to present itself, saying This! And this too! Oh and please will you write about this!? Things were begging to be expressed from within me and I felt alive in a way I hadn’t for some time.
Then for various reasons I began to lose confidence, I stopped giving my time and attention to the process, and – just like that – inspiration dried up: if I did take some time for it, there appeared to be nothing there.
So today I am showing up again. Today I am listening with a kind of awe at how love works. Love? Yes. Today I am calling the process of giving attention to something precious, an act of love. As I turn my attention to writing, the writing itself starts to respond like a dried up plant responding to water, or a neglected child responding to loving attention. And words start to flow. And that, to me, is magic! And it is how love works.
When I sit with someone, whatever is going on for them, what becomes more and more apparent is that there is nothing more potent than simply being there, resting in my body, and bringing my loving, attuned attention to them. No need to do something, resolve anything, fix anything. A spacious presence is what allows a relaxation and a blossoming to happen more than anything else. Whatever is given loving attention thrives.
Twenty years ago, my teacher, who I had only recently met, said – “Where you put your attention becomes your experience.” This was radical to me. And it began to become clear that wherever my attention went, that would be my experience. My attention is on my breath, suddenly my primary experience is the soothing, constant, tidal rhythm of inhaling and exhaling. And my breath itself seems to appreciate the attention and become more settled, deeper. I put my attention on the problems of my life, my experience shifts to a sense of difficulty, pressure, fear, concern. It is instant and visceral. The problems seem to increase in urgency and number. I put my attention on the little dog which is suddenly rushing towards me and I feel a surge of affection and excitement, infected by his buoyancy. And with my attention, his joy becomes increasingly overflowing. I bring attention to the space in which everything is happening and there is an immediate sense of expansion and spaciousness. It may be fancy, but it appears as if the space itself seems to say Thank you for noticing. It becomes more vibrant and alive. There is choice here. What am I giving my attention to? What am I making precious in my life? By giving it my attention and therefore my interest and energy, I am bringing aspects of existence to life. I am enlivening what I focus on.
I started to notice that I was habitually focusing on difficulty rather than ease – even though most of the time both were happening, I was more interested in the difficulty; as if, by focusing on it, I would be more able to resolve it and therefore feel more at ease. But the effect of the somewhat obsessive focus, meant that I was perpetually entangled in the difficulties of my – and other peoples – lives. The difficulties intensified. Realizing this was massive, because I also started to realize that there was far more ease in my experience than I had ever appreciated, and as I began to give it attention, the experience of ease – and enjoyment of life – began to open more and more.
I also began to notice that I would, by tendency, get fixated on whatever I was bringing my attention to, and that the narrow focus of this created stress. As I realized that I could spread my attention to include more of the totality of what was happening in any moment, the stress lessened and the world could open up again, allowing whatever it was I had been focusing on to exist in a bigger frame, it could breathe, could be appreciated more fully; it was allowed to unfurl and often resolve itself.
So here I am, writing again. Happy to be writing. Satisfied to be appreciating the power of my own loving attention which gives rise right now to this expression.
I am awed by life right now. When spring is erupting into summer and the whole natural world seems to be singing, blossoming, offering itself to be admired and marveled at, that awe comes more readily.
I witness the seasons passing, each one so different, and so vibrantly itself; I witness cycles of life in nature, but also in the people I know and in myself. I see my body ageing, and heading into the later years, skin wrinkling, aches increasing, mortality more believable. I see myself move between joy, peace, discomfort, sorrow, confusion, wonder; between knowing my place in the world and doubting it again, between a sense of connection and separation; And in my work, in my friendships, in my family, I witness those I love, as they stagnate, fall apart, rise up singing and full of exuberance, collapsing again under the weight of the next apparent setback or challenge, and at some point rising up again – and I increasingly see how things just change. Constantly. History plays out. Births and deaths, openings and closures, expansions and contractions, winters and summers. There is no end point.
The greatest gift of all is abiding in it all. By that I mean being here for it all, without presuming it all needs resolving, but bringing loving attention to what wants loving attention, to what is most valuable to us – knowing, that at least in this, we have choice.