“Wisdom, after all, is not a station you arrive at, but a means of traveling.”
Sue Monk Kidd
As we grow in self awareness we become more attuned to who we are, how we are living and what is actually getting our attention.
I was talking a walk this week and noticed an acorn. Its shiny green color popped against a pebbled path. I picked it up and noticed another bright green object a little farther down, a broken nerf gun bullet. What do we tend to focus on as we go about our day? The acorn, a symbol of growth and potential or the broken, unimportant things?
It’s often been said that we have a wealth of information and a poverty of attention.* It’s hard to pay attention when we are bombarded by information. Microsoft researcher Linda Stone observed that we are in a state of “continuous partial attention.” We are always “on”. It takes effort not to multitask. It takes intentionality not to be involved in a continuous flow of interactions — to put down your phone or turn away from your screen so you’re not looking at email and talking to someone at the same time. It’s hard to be “off” — to be fully present where you are. It takes time and practice to pay attention to what is really needed and give yourself entirely to what is right in front of you.
Over twenty years ago, when we were first married, my husband had to wear a pager for a brief period of time so if needed, people could get a hold of him. Now, we all have a pager, it’s called a cell phone. It is going off at all hours, flashing text messages and emails from people who want our attention.
“We talk about unplugging, but we’re enchanted by the endless social media circus…And while we’ve always had our individual struggles and heartbreaks to deal with, now we have the tragedies of the entire world delivered to us hourly on our mobile devices. This is all very hard on the soul,” warns John Eldredge.
We need an acorn, a kernel of truth to keep us going in the right direction. And, maybe what that acorn does best is remind us of our smallness. As we grow in our self awareness it is important to
realize our place in the bigger scheme of things: and stand “… in awe of something — something that dwarfs the self, that allows human beings to sense the full extent of our limits.” **
As we practice paying attention to our lives, we begin a lifelong journey of uncovering the real meaning — the plot of our own stories. Our understanding unfolds often unexpectedly and sometimes mysteriously. Let’s continue to work on being more self aware by paying attention and marshaling our lives in a better way.
What am I focusing my attention on most of the time?
What do I want to pay attention to?
When am I my best self?
______________________ * Ken Mehlman is credited with saying this. He served as George W. Bush’s presidential campaign manager.
** Barbara Brown Taylor