Pay Attention to Everything

(photo by KSL News)

I love the Zen phrase — “Everything is connected. Everything changes. Pay attention.” It guides me in my personal life. It guides me in work with groups. It guides me when I need to drive in a snow storm, which is what happened last night upon my return to Salt Lake City’s International Airport.

Truth be told, I kind of like the feeling of needing to pay attention to the whole system of things. I like it that it matters. And, truth be told, I kind of like the feeling of activating my Canada driving skills to carry me from the airport to my home, a 45 mile drive.

Fast forward — made it last night. All good. And to be clear, if I felt it needed, I would have stayed with a friend in Salt Lake City to wait out the storm until day light. I also feel that I should knock on wood — to continue to invoke providence and good luck in the circumstances in which there is no such thing as “control.”

Pay attention to everything — here’s a bit of what that looked like for me last night.

  • Wear my boots; not my shoes (which I’d packed with me knowing this storm was a likelihood).
  • Wear my coat; have my gloves and hat ready (vulnerability is great, but being without gloves is just stupid).
  • Check the weather app for forecasts at the time I land; yikes, it was 80-90% chance of snow (and visibility was very low, looking out my airplane window).
  • Notice how long it would have been snowing; did it just start or had it been going on for hours (new circumstance or old pattern).
  • In riding the “Economy Lot Shuttle” to get to my car, ask the driver who I am standing next to, what he knows about the roads (he was 60s ish man originally from Idaho, and spoke simply — “When you have trouble breathing, it’s cold. Same thing when it’s hot.” That wasn’t super helpful, but it was endearing. The snow was falling heavily as he drove. The cars in the parking lot had 4-5 inches of snow on them.
  • Check the current temperature. It is above or below freezing? It will make a difference on whether ice is forming on the roads or if we are just dealing with the snow.

Now I’m in my car. The wind is blowing slightly. Flakes of snow are large and remind me of Star Trek movies and what the stars look like moving at warp speed. It’s actually really beautiful, as is the quiet that only comes with snow.

Keep paying attention.

  • There remains slush on the road. That’s a good sign, as long as it doesn’t get to freezing soon.
  • Keep ample distance from others for extra room to do everything slowly. No sudden stops. No frivolous lane changes. When I say ample, I mean like 10-20 car lengths.
  • Watch others’ brake lights. If they brake, tap my own to learn from what I can’t see but what they may be seeing ahead of me.
  • Feel the road. Are my tires making good contact. (I do have newish winter tires for these purposes).
  • Watch extra for the highest elevation, “Point of the Mountain” where there is most often more snow.
  • Watch for vehicles pulled off to the side (do they need help, and, those might be extra tricky spots).
  • Listen to the radio report on road conditions; then turn it off so that I can hear the road more carefully.

And a few more things.

Pay attention — everything is connected.

I made it last night. Grateful. It was a trip of 20-40 miles per hour rather than 70-75.

Judy Brown wrote a poem that I often use, called “Fire,” in which she includes an invitation to learn about groups the way we learn about tending fires.

“When we are able to build
open spaces
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible.”

I feel something similar about learning about groups (and self) from what we learn about paying attention, exquisitely, to snowy road conditions.

When we are able to pay attention
to each other and to groups
in the same way
we have learned
to connect everything
when driving in a snow storm,
then we can come to see how
it is connection, and more nuanced connection,
that make wholeness possible.

Pay attention to everything. I hope to continue to learn to both give myself to this connected reality, and to surrender to it, skillfully, to the much greater unseen that requires us to be in connection, and attention, and change.



Job 1: To Be A Noticer

Once upon a time, I grew up in a family that was very oriented to jobs. Because it was expected that everyone would help. The kids. The grownups. We were all to pitch in. That’s what family did.

What family did at Canadian Thanksgiving, was travel 250 miles from Edmonton, Alberta to Kerrobert, Saskatchewan. Edmonton is where I lived with my mom and my sister. Edmonton was also home to Auntie Di and Uncle Frank, and their two kids / my cousins. Edmonton was home to Uncle John and Auntie Mary Lynne. There were a few others that would make the trip from time to time. Family by friendship, which felt as thick as blood. Kerrobert was where Grandma and Grandpa lived, parents to my mom, Di, and John. A small home in a small town (in the picture above, that’s boy-child me celebrating my birthday, and young Auntie Di on the side — on a Thanksgiving Weekend likely in the mid 70s). Granny and Grampa’s home had a ping pong table in the basement, a yard in which we could play games, and enough floor space for all of us to sprawl out in a puppy pile sleep over.

A family job at Thanksgiving was to wash and wax everyone’s cars. We were prepping the cars for the winter. Some people washed. Some waxed on. Some waxed off. Some did the interior detailing. My job was often to clean the hubcaps and bumpers with an SOS pad and get them good and shiny (back when chrome was a thing on cars). We bundled up warm — Octobers in Saskatchewan can be nippy. We took pride in the work. We got the job done.

Fast forward to now, I still relate to having jobs. The wood still needs to be chopped. The meals need to be prepared. The dishes need to be done. The jobs, however, have changed. I’m really interested in the job of being a good noticer, participating in observing and becoming aware about what is really going on in the world. In the world in front of me. In the world in front of me that is connected to the broader world. The inner world and the outer world. In teams. In communities. In families. Being a thoughtful observer is a job, so that on occasion, we can evolve these many layers of world to more understanding — I relate to this.

One of the ways that I do the job of noticing is that I blog, and I enjoy reading others blogs. My noticing. Their noticing. Shawna Lemay is one of those, who I’ve mentioned before. I love her tagline, “You are required to make something beautiful.” It’s a job.

Shawna’s post earlier this week was about why she blogs (excerpted below). She wrote of “persistences.” With each that I read, I took an extra in-breath of delight in her description. She was writing a version of awareness in blogging that I really relate to. I blog mostly, because I like to notice things. I like the feeling. I like to make sense of things. I like to pay attention to the mystery within which I live. Blogging helps me to do that.

Enjoy these below, from Shawna, on why she keeps blogging.

  • I persist because when I keep my eye out for things to share, I find things that feed into the rest of my writing, and that, frankly, make my life richer. I sit with them a bit longer than I would if I were merely scrolling through my Facebook or Twitter feed. I mull more because I blog.
  • I persist because I’m kind of addicted to this kind of writing. The kind where you open up a new blog post window and just start typing and hoping.
  • I persist because I never really know what my next post is going to be. And I want to find out.
  • I persist because I’m so vain and I love my photographs, and I want to put them somewhere nice, of my own making.
  • I persist because the only reason I dust the surfaces of the tables in my house is so that I can take photos for my blog.
  • I persist because I really do believe that we’re all required to make something beautiful and some days this is my attempt.

Blogs can be messy, which is why I’ve always liked them. They’re written on the fly in between part-time work, side-hustles, running the eternal errands, reading books, conversations with friends, cleaning the house, making dinner, and the so-called “real” writing. 

Job 1: To Be A Noticer. And to dare to bring that forward in the essential humanness of encountering each other with our noticing.

Job 1A: Don’t forget the hubcaps and bumpers.

Surprise and Beauty

I love it when simple exercises have significant impact. You know, the kind that seem almost silly because they are so simple. That seem like a distraction from the “real work.” Silly they aren’t, so often. And often, they are just the right kind of real.

Last week I got to do one of those with my friends at Soultime, while on Bowen Island. Dave Waugh was the one that offered it, a twenty minute bare foot walk in the forest. I don’t want to over describe my experience with too much rational thinking brain to flesh out the “why.” For me it was enough to encounter the world through different senses, and to disrupt the normal goto habits.

Off the twelve of us went. In silence. And with invitation to pay attention. Some carried a question. For me, it was just an intent that I realize is a super important operating system for me. Mostly looking down at the ground and taking slow, short steps (that was the invitation) I decided that I wanted to pay attention to what surprised me and to what felt beautiful.

First thing that caught my attention (because this is less about strategizing an outcome) was a simple piece of a branch that was about the size and length of my index finger. It had been splintered in roughly half. Dried bark on the outside. A couple of oval layers of tan and brown on the inside. The surprise and beauty that I immediately wondered about was about the story of this little branch. Was it broken from chopping wood. Was it splintered from falling off of a tree? Was it carried and dropped by a bird? It was intriguing to me that there was story to this little branch, as there is story to pretty much everything. The story has always been the interesting part of the encounter.

I walked further. Slow steps. Again mostly looking down. It was a sunny day which made all of this very easy. I was loving the silence. I was loving the simplicity as I began to feel the ground with my feet. As if they were my hands. The soft green moss. Even the crunchy dried branches part — it was good to feel what I normally wouldn’t when wearing shoes. I loved walking on a fallen log. Different textures. Different feels. More surprise and more beauty — I suppose these are always there if we are willing to give them attention.

As I continued to walk, still mostly looking down, I decided to look up through the trees. Again, simple as it sounds, the contrast of experience from such deliberate looking down, well that was delicious. The blue sky through the tree tops. The suddenly extended range beyond 6 feet to the height of the trees and the infinity of the sky. I loved it. And then, a gust of wind rushed through the trees.

Look down. Look up. Listen. That’s what I came up with.

And then the bell rang to signal return for the twelve of us to the yurt to share what we noticed.

Look for surprise and beauty. Look down. Look up. Listen.

It was just a simple exercise. Oh ya, a simple exercise that woke something up in me. Thanks Dave. Thanks Soultime.