More ways in which poets, writers, artists, naturalists all help us to understand what it means to “attend” and teach us that we can think of attentiveness in many ways….
Becoming aware. To live with continuous awareness (as the naturalist Joseph Wood Krutch put it) in each moment is an art that requires practicing. Abraham Heschel reminds us,
The art of awareness of
the art of sensing Hs presence
in our daily lives
cannot be learned off-
Waiting with expectancy. Attention is closely related to the French word ‘attendre’, which means “to wait”. Recalling that an important aspect of monastic life has been described as “attentive waiting”, the poet/essayist Kathleen Norris comments, “I think it’s also a fair description of the writing process. Once when I was asked ‘What is the main thing that a poet does?’ I was inspired to answer, ‘We wait’.
“A spark is struck; an event inscribed with a message – this is important, pay attention – and a poet scatters a few words like seeds in a notebook. Months or even years later, those words bear fruit. The process requires both discipline and commitment, and its gifts come from both preparedness and grace.”
Being mindful. There is a lovely story of a monk who was very upset when he had lost his umbrella. When a brother monk asked why he was so bothered, he answered that it showed he had lost his attentiveness!
Being wakeful. Jesus, telling his disciples to ‘watch and pray’ and not be led into temptation and Paul, admonishing the early believers that ‘it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep’ emphasized the importance of wakefulness. As a Sengalese proverb puts it: “The opportunity which God sends does not wake him up who is sleeping”
Writing on prayer, C.S. Lewis recommend wakefulness as the way to penetrate God’s disguises: “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito. And the incognito is not always hard to penetrate. The real labour is to attend. In fact, to come awake. Still more, to remain awake”.
Adapted from The Attentive Life: Discerning God’s Presence in All Things, by Leighton Ford; 2008, InterVarsity Press