Why You Should Pay Full Attention

Eliza Wing
Mar 9 · 3 min read

Life is moments strung together. How we live them makes all the difference.

Sometimes a memory comes, unbidden, to the surface. That Sunday morning on Montague Street in Brooklyn when we sat at a crowded, noisy restaurant eating the biggest, best omelets. Mine was broccoli, swiss, mushrooms. And I still remember the first bite. Or the beach at Carver’s Cove, Maine that was purple, entirely built of mussel shells. The sound of ducks returning to the creek in the spring. The sound of geese, flying high and leaving the Chesapeake in great streams. A bell buoy clanging in the rolling calm of a hot August afternoon. The dark cracks of a granite cliff looming crazily above us in the deepest fog.

The memories rise, stirred up in the most incongruous moments. Snippets.

It isn’t in my nature to dwell much in the past. These impressions rise up — bursts from below.

But you can’t access what you haven’t truly experienced. Mindfulness practice teaches us to stay present in the moment without clouding our experience with judgement.

The past only comes back when the present runs so smoothly that it is like the sliding surface of a deep river. — Virginia Woolf

How you live your days is of course how you live your life, said Annie Dillard. Sit with that thought and realize that each moment can have the quality of completeness and fullness. Even if it feels supremely unimportant at the time, pleasant (or un) yes, but not so noteworthy that 30, 40 years later it will rise up. You should know that this moment or this one might be one that greets you unexpectedly one quiet morning. So that you find yourself in a café whose name you’ve long ago left behind. Doesn’t that point to the fact that we should live our lives as fully and beautifully as we know how?

Those ducks returning to the stream were there for the listening. The dance of a lone, yellow leaf, free falling, solo — in a dance through the air so exquisite it is hard to believe there’s any reason but joy for its progress.

So, we can be observers of our own surroundings and relationships. The poet Mary Oliver used to walk in the natural world, notepad in hand observing, composing, being. Poems transmitting through her fingers onto the page.

You don’t have to be a poet to sit in the wild world and let it all in.

And wild, by the way, can be the Starbucks you hit up on the way to work (in fact, it most certainly is) or the sound of the school bus door closing with a sigh as your child walks back to her dark green seat. Your dog nuzzling you — it’s walk time. Listen to your dog, the children, the clatter and clang of the moments.

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. — Thoreau

Bring it on world. We are all in.

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