Passing awareness, paying attention

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I’m the youngest of four in my family. Growing up, it was a huge thing when I got my own room, and that wasn’t until I was in high school and my older siblings had gone away to college and life beyond that. In college, I always shared a living space with at least 3 other girls. After, I lived in Los Angeles, where I couldn’t afford my own room in any of the places I lived. Last year, I moved into an apartment by myself. Having 786 sq. feet all to myself was a huge leap forward in life.

It’s a cozy one bedroom that I’ve transformed into my own little art gallery/library/cocoon. It was the first time in my life that I made all the decisions, from the paint color to the knobs on the cabinets, and even to what I would do with my time in this little home. I moved in on Easter weekend and had a couple of friends over to paint that same day.

When they left, I suddenly noticed that 786 sq. feet is a lot of space when there is only one person in it. I’m an extrovert (I draw my energy from being around people) and I’ve always been very self aware, studying myself through tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Gallup StrengthsFinder. Since discovering these tools and others, I’ve shared them with family, friends, and co-workers so they could become more aware as well. Awareness is my thing.

I moved to this place for more than just awareness. Awareness can seem passive – the receiving of knowledge or epiphany and the light that just comes on. It’s what you do after awareness that matters. This move followed my season of burnout, awareness that I really couldn't do everything, waking up to the idea of intentional rhythm, and realizing I needed to do something really different. I needed to be alone and still. I needed to remember who I wanted to become and what behaviors and attitudes would help along that journey. In order to do those things I needed to start paying attention.

Paying attention is active; when you’re paying attention you are looking to see what’s really happening. Sometimes paying attention looks like waiting, being still, and engaged listening. Sometimes it looks like moving forward and watching closely how each step affects change. For this season, paying attention meant trying new things I thought might be life-giving, as well as re-awakening some that had been life-giving at some point, and taking careful notes of how those rhythms affected me.

Ruth Hayley Barton writes in Sacred Rhythms,

“Paying attention to what gives our body and our spirit a sense of life or drains life can help us stay connected with God’s guiding presence… I honor my body by ‘listening’ to tension, discomfort, lightness, or joy and wonder, asking, Now what is that about?

Take this week to actively pay attention to your life. Pause, ask questions, and adjust accordingly. Listen to what exhausts you, what makes you excited, what makes you angry, and what pulls at your heart. You are so very valuable, and the world needs you to be your most alive self. By paying attention you communicate to yourself that living a whole and full life matters.