Category Archives: Mind

What gets your attention?

We all notice, don’t we? The thing that wasn’t there before. The thing that isn’t but was. The thing that’s different from one image to the next. Heck, that’s a puzzle I loved to do as a kid! Find all 10!

Yes, if we’re paying even the slightest attention, we notice when something has changed, been moved, seems out of place or is acting strangely. That’s why airport security admonishes us, “If you see something, say something.”

The funny thing is, we were made for this. It’s a survival mechanism. Really. Our perceptors (my new word: receptors for perception) are designed to alert us when something might be dangerous. Did you know that your body responds more quickly and forcefully to a critter crawling UP your arm than to the one crawling DOWN? Yep. One is a threat to the jugular; the other may only nibble a finger or toe. No biggie.

So, given this design, it’s not surprising to find that something moving quickly in our peripheral vision draws our attention. Someone behaving oddly gets our gaze. Someone dressed distinctively gives us pause. Honestly, when something or someone is different, it is hard to look away — even when it’s impolite to stare.

I find it at least a little bit comforting to realize that it isn’t just my socio-cultural bias at play here: a good bit of this responsiveness is programmed in. I’m designed to notice different and be wary, AND I’m drawn to seek the similar because it brings me comfort. It’s our instinctive nature to distinguish among and between in order to seek safety, security and well-being. It’s the same for all the animals in the animal kingdom. Draw close; protect your own.

Today’s world, though, is demanding more of me and of us. It is calling us away from the basic animal in our nature toward what is unique to our human nature. Yes, we have biases — ingrained, learned and polished over years of practice. There’s no disputing: We do prefer this to that. We understand this and not that. We accept this and reject that. But our humanity has been dealt a brilliant extra card: a mind that can notice its bias and reject it.

It’s a small thing really, to catch myself in the act of assigning a story to someone I see but don’t know, whether it’s on the TV, in the news or in the parking lot at my local shopping center. I have discovered that I can nip that thought right in the bud, though. In fact, I’ve taken to giving myself a little swat on the thigh to say, “Stop that right there, you!” That’s what you’d hear if your earbuds were listening in to my brain. I trust you aren’t, but the Big Someone Else surely is.

So, I figure I ought to listen, as Lincoln put it, to the angels of my better nature. They’re telling me to: lead with forgiveness, err on the side of generosity, assume the best in the other — until further notice. Lotta grace flowing down that stream. Grace I don’t always even give myself. Got a lot to learn.

Ironic, the difference between what gets your attention and what you give your attention to. Every animal in the kingdom comes pre-programmed for survival. We humans have the capacity to discern, decide and re-direct. Thought by ever-loving thought.

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Invited to Rest

The lake is glorious. Restful, peaceful, serene. It doesn’t shout, “Come, play with me!” It doesn’t tease, “Lookie what I’m doing.” It doesn’t tempt with rowdy revelers splashing and sailing and fishing. Well, there are quite a few fishing.

IMG_1333No, the Lake at Junaluska just is. It is rest. It is peace. It is serene. It is not a place to get things done. I realized this as I set up my computer facing a window overlooking the lake, and sighed. Ah, now THAT is a view.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It didn’t distract me. More, it called to me. “You are here. Come be with me.”

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I had come to spend the week at the lake, catching up on all the things I hadn’t gotten done in the middle of my busy life. The things that needed reading, needed writing, needed sorting, needed attending to, things that I just hadn’t found time for. Now, I had all week for them, but the the Lake said, “Come be with me.” And that invitation is strong.

I had come to be alone, and found solitude.

I had come for quiet, and found silence.

I had come for refuge, and found welcome.

What I didn’t find was space to organize my disheveled self. Rather, there were sights and sounds to be shared. Things to be remembered and recorded. There was activity to be investigated and experienced. There were people to visit with, dogs to pat, birds to listen to, storms to respect and, of course, the Golden Hour to photograph.

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But what were any of these things without someone with whom to share?

We are communal beings. In spite of my ready angst about the person too loud at the next table, solo is not a natural state for me. “I just need to tell you, show you, share…” is the constant state of my being. Somehow, the solitary experience is incomplete for me. It vanishes with no one else to know it. Did I really see that? Hear that? Feel that? My testimony alone cannot confirm. I need companionship. Someone to listen, reflect, and appreciate with me the wonders of the world before me and their impact on the world within me.

I guess I’m just not cut from monastic cloth. After but a few hours, I am longing for someone, something, somewhere. My journals are but a meager substitute. It’s the Lake’s fault. It bids be come and walk and talk awhile. Perhaps I am the only one who hears, but I expect not, as the crowds on its pathways testify to its attraction for so many others. It is a wonderful conversational companion.

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Sure, stop and rest a bit, the Lake says. But don’t bring what you haven’t gotten done here expecting me to help you do it. I am for reflection, you to yourself. Depart, knowing better what you came for and what you go with. The world needs you back. I send you. 

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I came to the Lake at its invitation of rest, but I brought work with me instead. On my last day to spend in its embrace, it speaks softly. What you need is who I am.

Go now, and I go with you.

Don’t let me interrupt

Don’t let me interrupt.
I’ll wait.
When there’s a lull in the conversation, I’ll speak up.

IMG_4757How often I patch the hole in my day, the opening in my calendar, even the moment between my bites with something to do. Something to keep my mind occupied. Something to entertain me. Or with just plain filler. While I’ve got a few minutes, let me clean out my inbox.

God doesn’t shout over what I’m doing, what I’m reading, what I’m watching, or what I’m listening to. God waits. Waits for me to finish. To take a breath. To leave a space. To rest from all that I am creating.

In our rat-a-tat world, this feels like wasted time, doesn’t it?  I think I need more “wasting-time.” Unplugged, uncommitted, unfilled. The time I leave is never wasted when I open it to its possibilities.

I’ll wait. I’m not going anywhere.
Don’t let me interrupt.
When there’s a lull in the conversation,
I’ll speak up.

Love,
God

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