Paying attention

Many years ago, when I worked for a large corporation, I stumbled across a poet, who had made this amazing connection between poetry and the preservation of the soul in corporate America. At the time, I was on a search for how to express the energy of my soul in my work as an information technology designer. I knew that my occupation provided security – a good income, a 401K, a health insurance plan, yet there was always something missing for me.

I began to feel that something was wrong about me, and I was confused by David’s message - work can be immensely fulfilling when you face your fears and follow your dreams.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to do a workshop with David Whyte. Our middle son was finishing naval training in Charleston, and David was scheduled to do a workshop there. I sat, listening to the author’s reading of his work, and his descriptions of the complex experiences that birthed his poetry. Swept away. I’m sure that others asked questions, but I heard only his voice, and I felt speechless. How did his words relate to my own life? His stories of adventures in the Galapagos, mine of adventures at my cubicle? I busily took notes, interrupted only by my own reflections of how little my life was. Later, I found myself standing face to face with David in the refreshment line. I blurted out, “What if you don’t have any stories?”. He gave me a tough-love look and in-my-face said “You’re not paying attention”, pushed past me, leaving me staring at the back of his head as he disappeared into the crowd. Fighting the urge to say “Noooooooooooooo….. wait, WTF?”, I may have actually been looking for someone to blame for staying in jobs that didn’t feed my soul. Busted. Life-changing, potentially

For me, paying attention seems like something easy. Paying attention is about being in the present. I love my leisurely drive through the country into my office. Sometimes my mind fills with wonderful ideas, sometimes it’s a to-do list, and I realize, I wasn’t in the present. I have a daily practice, each morning before I get up, each night before I go to sleep, of settling into my body and the space around it, being aware of its wondrous parts and letting go of the busyness inside my head. It’s something that has become non-negotiable. A cautionary tale – once you commit to honoring your deepest self, you bear the responsibility of making it so. I’m enjoying a bit of reflective time after a brief and intense tumble down a flight of marble steps at our state’s incredible and gothic state capital building, with camera in hand – great pictures, fractured hip. I have a renewed dedication for paying attention, and perhaps, a great story.

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