Paying attention


I was cleaning out  Fred’s ear yesterday morning, and some of the “stuff” flew into my eye. As I quickly made my way to the bathroom to wash it out, I thought, “OK Mary. What were you thinking when that happened?, and just as quickly, I realized that I had been thinking about my mother, who I’d visited the day before. She’d been criticizing a former friend of hers, and I was half-consciously thinking about this when the “crud in the eye” incident startled me into full consciousness.

I became aware of this pattern a number of years ago as a runner. I’ve very rarely fallen, but the times when I have tripped significantly, were always when I was mulling over a complaint, or having some one-sided argument in my mind.

I pay attention to everything in my life. I do not even consider anymore, that this is a random universe. Every little thing that happens, like tripping, reminds me to become conscious of my thoughts. Years ago, when I first started noticing this pattern, I would be very hard on myself for these lapses in thought, but being self-critical is no better than criticising someone else. Blame and critical thoughts are low energy, which if not changed, keep attracting more things to feel critical about. What I try to do now, when I catch myself thinking some unpleasant thought, is simply to say, “OK, enough of that. Let it go. What better thought can you think right now?”

The metaphor of life as a big classroom, where I get to try out a variety of approaches to living; find what works, and what fails, and to just keep advancing, is appealing to me. I’m not expected to do it perfectly the first time. I will make hundreds, maybe thousands, of “mistakes”, but I believe that we are all here to learn and grow, to day-dream and to pay attention.

The ancestor of every action is a thought“. Ralph Waldo Emerson

23 thoughts on “Paying attention”

  1. I love, love, love this post today Mary! I have noticed the same thing – if I am not “at one” with what ever creative endeavor I am involved in – I trip myself up and make mistakes too…
    Mostly though, what I am loving is your mention of self acceptance and forgiveness which must take place as we stumble along our paths in the directions of our dreams – I’m sure I must look like a drunken sailor at times on rough seas, but progress not perfection is the goal!

  2. Mary, what you say is very true. I am becoming more conscious of this myself. Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol said: “I wear the chain I forged in life…I made it link by link and yard by yard”
    This might apply to your observations this morning,
    SandyP in Canada

    1. Wonderful words from you, Sandy P. Dickens was an amazing observer of life with great insights. Thanks for bringing this quote to us this morning! One of my favorites is “A Christmas Carol” and all of its lessons.

    2. Such a relevant quote, Sandy P, thank you! And to believe and know we have the choice and the power to weaken and break that chain, cast it aside, leave it behind, and lighten the present and future makes life so exciting. I love Dickens too!

  3. I’ve been having a lot of negative thoughts lately as I battle with a health issue. I’m going to practice saying “What better thought can you think right now?” and pause to read something positive. Also try not to get discouraged if it doesn’t work right away. Just try to keep advancing every day.

    1. Caryl, you’ve got the right idea. I can tell you from experience that when you’re going through a health challenge, the challenge of controlling your thoughts is a tough one. Allow yourself the freedom to fall back now and then without turning it into another big negative.

      I’m sending you love and peace and all manner of good energy.

  4. Mary, I truly don’t know how, day after day, you continue to shine forth with your meaningful words, never failing to bring home a pertinent message. Bless your heart. We are all so lucky to have found you. 🙂

  5. Now I know where my yoga teacher got her often spoken words “Action follows thought” – from Ralph Waldo E.! The words that jumped out to me also, Mary, were “Blame and critical thoughts are low energy, which if not changed, keep attracting more things to feel critical about.” Optimal energy simply must shoo the negative out the door – time for some spring ‘house’ cleaning! Happy weekend to all!

    1. Love your idea of spring ‘house’ cleaning, Susan! What old patterns can I toss? And replace with something much better!

  6. Mary, Your words, “being self-critical is no better than criticising someone else” really resonated for me as I do much less of the latter but too much of the former. I will remember that critical thoughts are low energy as I go through my day today and every day.
    Enjoy the weekend everyone.

  7. Dear Mary, thank you for this poignant reminder to be witness to our every thought….and to allow those thoughts to guide us back to a place of centered awareness. And thanks for affirming that nothing is random….everything has a place, a meaning and the gift of enlightenment. Your post today helps me to let go of those (many!) times when I catch my thoughts, only to berate myself for thinking something negative. Hah! The ultimate cosmic joke. I had a chance to do this a couple of days ago when I tried to purchase tickets to the Dalai Lama’s visit to San Diego…I’d been waiting for months to do this…a birthday gift for my friend of 35+ years..we were going to go together. Obsessed with the idea of making this the perfect experience, I was dismayed when the tickets were all sold out within minutes. I tried and tried to get tickets…to no avail. My reaction was extreme frustration. I called up my friend and told her I was having a very UN-Dalai Lama-like reaction of anger at not being able to get tickets to the Dalai Lama!. She told me to let it go…it was okay. But instead, I bothered myself all day for my lapse in positive thinking..punishing myself for getting angry. Your post this morning helps me get a chuckle out of the whole thing since it is a pretty funny story. Happy weekend to you!

    1. If it’s any consolation, Debra, as I read your story I could ‘see’ the Dalai Lama’s twinkling eyes and ‘hear’ his sweet, childlike laughter chuckling along with you. He would say “Yes, that’s IT exactly”! Namaste.

      1. Thanks Cheryl…. Yes, those twinkling eyes and heart of forgiveness…now I know why I’d been so preoccupied with this for several months….thinking that to be in the presence of such a one as the Dalai Lama would shower upon me the sweetness of awareness. When in reality the NOT going to the Dalai Lama held many more lessons.

    2. Debra, I was really in awe today to be in the presence of my friend’s mother, who is here having just celebrated her 90th birthday in December. Well, my friend and I always try and get together to honor our friendship and birthdays, but it’s just twice a year. Today, to see her mother with her clear blue and sparkling eyes, to see her come in to the restaurant on the arm of her lovely daughter, – and to think I had thought, oh my gosh, a couple of hours earlier, what in the world will we talk about for an hour and a half? But the time swept by in sweet lovely moments for me anyway, just gazing upon a ninety year old Mom, enjoying her daughter and her friend, are we really 60 and 67 years old? Oh my, enjoy the moment, and hope we all will take our sparkling eyes and bring them to shine upon a ninetieth year!

      1. Susan, thank you for such a lovely visual picture of you, your friend and her mom. I hope we are all able to bring the love and joy you described into our 90’s!

  8. I love “What better thought can I think right now?”. Rather than telling myself to just stop thinking the negative thought, it gives me something else on which to focus…a better thought…and there are many:)

  9. Ahh Mary and all my friends here, if I could just see you all I’d so like to give us all a big hug. A cyber hug to each of you and thank you for the continuous flow of good energy through word and thought and prayer. A joyous weekend to all.

Comments are closed.