“When you listen with empty ears, you hear more. And this is the core of the secret: Attention is the beginning of devotion.” – Mary Oliver
My relationship with myself is the most important relationship I have. It’s more important than my relationship with my family, my partner, or my work. It’s also so easy to get wrong. My partner might say “I need more time with you.” My business spreadsheet might say “I need you to increase revenue so that these numbers are green instead of red.” But my own self often doesn’t speak loudly until it’s too late. Months go by without exercise and I don’t notice until I feel sluggish and grumpy. At that point, there is big work to do in order to rebuild the habits that make me feel energized and whole. This is why, listening to the quiet ways in which my body and my mind tell me what I need, is imperative.
Sit with yourself. Watch yourself. Notice yourself. Each of us are unique and require a different set of challenges in each season of our life – physical, spiritual, professional, creative, or relational. What do you need? What are you asking for?
I have a million wants and needs, it seems. They tug at me throughout the day. My attention is scattered and reactionary, mostly, while I run from one thing to the other. If you asked me in this state, what do you want to begin? I would have no idea. I would probably say: a nap. I want a damn nap.
But then there are times when I give myself some space–sometimes just for a moment on my commute or when I’m laying in bed at night. My attention has gathered together for me, for that moment, and I can feel it a different way. I feel it as a resource. Then I ask myself again: what do I want to begin? What do I do with my precious resource?Sometimes your answers will surprise you. And then the most important question arises. The question at the beginning of every adventure. Are you willing to attend to the answer?
One of my very favorite affirmations is choose your choice. I find a lot of strength in digging deep into a choice until it is alive as a creative project or a business or even a new identity as a mom. But how do I claim the choice to begin with? How do I take a stand for an idea? How do I, as Angeles Arrien says, pay attention to what has heart and meaning?
There is a vast difference between the energy of all the swirling creative ideas I have and the deep basin of those ideas that feed my hungry soul. It is that soul food that I can listen for inside if I’m quiet enough for long enough. But that soul food is also handed to me, every day, by the people I am vulnerable enough with to let impact my life. I have to keep finding the ways to get out of my own damn way, at least just enough to see what has heart and meaning reflected back to me in the people I trust the most.