Paying attention has been a big theme for me this year, especially with the Art of Attention course I did in March, which now feels like a million years away. Of that course, I wrote:
“Paying attention to art is paying attention to the self”
Paying Attention to Attention [Debbie Stott, April 2019]
I read and worked through the “Artist’s Way” book by Julia Cameron last year, but I still dip on and out of it when I need to remind myself why I want to be creative or if I need reassurance about something. This week I returned to her section on attention in Week 2: Recovering a Sense of Identity. This highlights many important aspect of the practice of paying attention for me.
In my Morning Pages, I’ve been complaining of a lack of connection to myself and others. I’ve felt untethered, like I’m bobbing around in the ocean without an anchor.
Julia Cameron writes that for creative and artistic people, “attention is a way to connect and survive” (p. 52). In fact she encourages us to immerse ourselves in the flow of life and pay close attention.
And the reward to paying attention? Healing. “More than anything else, attention is an act of connection” (p. 53). As we pay attention, we heal the particular pain we feel at present – the loss of a child, children leaving home, the breakdown of a marriage and so on. But Cameron believes that by paying attention, we eventually heal the pain of feeling alone and disconnected. It is a form of self-care.
What does it mean to pay attention?
If you know anything about me from reading this blog, it is that I need to understand what things really mean, as this extract from my book explains:
“As a practical person I want to know deep inside me what something means. How I can pursue ‘it’ if I don’t know what ‘it’ means? I need to embody its meaning. Dictionary definitions don’t do it for me. I was really good at defining concepts and ideas in my doctorate and academic work. I would not take a definition at face value until I truly knew what it meant in my bones. I teased definitions apart, ‘unpacked’ them, put them back together, with understanding”.Extract from “Midlife without a Map” [©Debbie Stott, 2019]
For me, paying attention means to be fully awake to what is happening in this very moment – in my mind, my body, my environment and with my emotions. It’s a holistic way of seeing myself and the world that I inhabit. It means looking at the small hidden things around me, not just the obvious. Looking at the small things inside me, not just ignoring them or squashing them. Looking at how all those small things connect to each other and to the whole.
How do I pay attention? By slowing down. By diverting my attention back to the actions that will take me in the direction of my intentions.
Pausing. It all hinges off this simple process of pausing.
Growing towards wholeness.
(PS: A part of my book “Midlife without a Map” tells the story of my open-ended journey towards wholeness, which is a whole other post!)
“I used to live for the big picture, whereas now I try my best to pay attention to the stitches that make up the tapestry of my life. In exercising my choices, I select the threads that add colour and vibrancy more carefully”.Do I Live in Process? [Debbie Stott, June 2019]
Daily Morning Routine
As I’ve learnt to write in my Morning Pages, I’ve learnt to pay more attention to the moment – how I’m feeling emotionally, physically, what’s worrying me, making me anxious. I finish most Morning Page writing sessions with an Oracle Card reading (see below my signature for the cards I’m currently loving!) and/or a reading from a book of daily meditations (see below for two of my favourites). After that, I set intentions for the day, which are not actually about doing but rather how I want to respond or show up for the day. It means that I start my day on that note, feeling balanced and grounded, breathing deeply and calmly.
It doesn’t always stay that way, mind you! But at least part of my day is lived with intention and awareness. And the intentions and connection help me to cope with what life throws at me.
So what of the disconnect I spoke about?
This whole routine connects me to myself and the universe, anchors me to the present and makes me feel less alone.
If for some reason I cannot write (it happens occasionally 😊), I need to find a way to gain that connection. Often I’ll just read a daily meditation or draw a single Oracle card.
It all comes down to my morning routine – if for some reason I don’t stick to that routine, I begin to disconnect. For me, that is one of my primary needs, an aspect of self-care.
Do you have a morning routine that helps you cope with what life throws at you? If you do, I’d love to hear from you.
Books and resources referred to in this post:
- The Artists Way – Julia Cameron
- Meditations for women who do too much – Anne Wilson Schaef
- Simple Abundance: A day book of comfort and joy – Sarah Ban Breathnach
- Spirit Animal Oracle Cards – Colette Baron-Reid. A set of physical cards for everyday use.
- Wisdom of the Oracle Cards – Colette Baron-Reid. A set on my tablet for when I travel.