HeartNote, March 4, 2019: Attentiveness

When I need inspiration, I always turn to Father Greg Boyle, the founder of Homeboy Industries and the author of the books, "Tattoos on the Heart" and "Barking at the Choir."

The following are excerpts from his "Thoughts for the Day" talk at Homeboy Industries, November 13, 2018.

He said: "The poet Mary Oliver said, "This is the first, wildest and wisest thing I know, that the soul exists and that it is built entirely out of attentiveness."

Boyle then said, "The highest form of loving really is the attention we pay."

I think both of these are true, but not for the reasons we think. Attention is an act of giving, but it's the focus within the attentiveness that activates the exchange. As a result, when we pay attention, when we mobilize that focus, that offering of our attention is the only thing that matters.

The best way to give our attention is with our eyes open, mouth closed, leaning in, and listening to the story, whatever that may be. A conversation, the clouds, the sentences across a page, and the steps of a child. Watching the movements. And responding with the acceptance, understanding and forgiveness that assemble the foundation of love.

We observe without distraction. When we watch something, attention means we see it fully and with focus. We give ourselves, and our hearts, to the observation.

And that last line needs a little explanation. When we are attentive, we tend to lose ourselves in the offering. We are so "into" what we are seeing that the ancillary contact with the unimportant things disappear. Our itches, pains, and discomfort leave us. We immerse ourselves with in the attention, and the attention surrounds us. The bridge between who we are and what we see, feel and hear shortens and nearly disappears.

Attention holds the most enduring exchange of love that we know. May you begin this practice in everything you experience.


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