I read a lovely book over the weekend that you should read right now - Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown. I have so much to explore. I started a virtual study group to process it with others, see where we go together. I'm drawn to many ideas she shares, but this one - what we pay attention to grows - is one that has been reverberating with me over the last 48 hours. It's Truth.
I see it in my children. If I comment on the annoying behavior, it continues or pops back up an hour later (or less). When I sit with my youngest as he works on his comic book series, he is more likely to keep working at it, even when he gets up before everyone else and works by the light streaming from the window because he can't reach the light switch. If I praise my oldest for persisting through a problem, he persists.
I see it in myself. When I put energy into taking care of myself I have more energy and motivation to take care of myself. (You can't escape paradox when you get deep.) When I put energy into my relationship with my partner, our communication and ease together grows and makes it possible to have those deeper, sometimes more challenging conversations. When I focus on loving my mom and appreciating her best qualities, well I don't see those other qualities so much. When I put energy into the healthy and healing things in my life, wonderful things come into my life: new friendships, opportunities, peace, and clarity. When I focus on all the things I cannot control or the terrible actions of people in power, I feel helpless and out of control.
What we pay attention to grows.
The Buddha taught that we create our reality with our thoughts. And maybe that's part of what is going on when we see these phenomena in action. Or as one of my other wisdom teachers, Kurt Vonnegut shared, "We are what we pretend to be, so be careful what you pretend to be." We are the stories we tell ourselves.
So for today, I am taking this wisdom as a call to bring love, peace, and healing into my life and my work. Starting with myself. We have to be on the interpersonal, micro level what we want to manifest in the macro level. Peace really starts within. Like for real. I know how cliche it sounds. Don't believe me, how about His Holiness the Dalai Lama?
"Peace starts within each one of us. When we have inner peace, we can be at peace with those around us. When our community is in a state of peace, it can share peace with neighboring communities, and so on. When we feel love and kindness towards others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace." - H.H., the Dalai Lama
How can I help to make peaceful and just community when there are discord and unease in my own spirit? In my own home? Focusing on the micro is not an excuse to ignore or abandon our work outside of ourselves, not even a little. But that outside work should not take the place of our much needed inner work. Burn out and apathy are the children of self-neglect and busyness. Make time and space for peace and community. So often folks, mostly white folks, rush into the doing of life. We forget to connect, to share our stories. To be silent. To be alone.
Busyness is the opposite of liberation. There is a lot of work to do to get everybody free. A lot. Infinite amounts of work. Almost. But running away from our human spirit through heartless activity isn't going to get us there.
Sit. Be still. Be present. Feel your breath. Be present in your body.
Pay attention to the breath. Pay attention to the silence between words. Pay attention to the moments of connection and laughter and ease. Pay attention to the yearnings. Feel your feelings. Practice letting go. Listen.
What we pay attention to grows.
Notice spirit. Notice love. Notice abundance. Notice healing. Notice connection. Notice ease. Notice silence. Listen. Listen within. Listen to stories. Listen to the wisdom of nature and children and elders. Listen.