“Pay attention!” One of those statements we have inevitably encountered coming from a parent, teacher, or spouse over the years. What that often meant was to quiet the imaginations, fantasy worlds, or thoughts that had captured our minds and pulled us away from the present moment. In our spiritual lives, learning to pay attention or growing our awareness of the present moment is an important matter that also calls to us. To become deeply human in the likeness of Jesus demands that we pay attention. To be aware is to take a long, loving gaze at the real; to be open to and receive from the present moment; to be present.
The exercise that follows is one you can return to again and again to develop your awareness. The intent is that, over time, you will spend more of your time and attention living present in the world God has made, where God is present.
- ENVIRONMENT: Find a place where you can sit and not be interrupted by a phone or acquaintance for the duration of your time.
- TIME: Schedule a minimum of 20 minutes (which can increase over time) to go through the awareness exercise.
- PREPARE: Become aware of your breathing and take a few deep breaths. As you inhale, pray, You are here, and as you exhale, pray, Here I am. Slow down and become conscious of this rhythmic prayer that flows with your breathing.
- BE HERE: Come to your senses. Take in one view and focus on observing one vantage point. Avoid too quickly diverting your attention from that focus (you can look down and take in all that is seen in a patch of grass or trunk of a tree; just choose one line of sight). When your mind wanders, return to your prayer: You are here; here I am. Then focus again on what is before you. Just take it in and be there, fully present.
- RETURN: When your time is up, take a minute or two and give thanks for being with God and ask him to help you grow in awareness.