The Attentive Life

Among the various and sundry titles accompanying me lately (yes, I sandwich Vicky Iovine with Kazantzakis, Nouwen with Sproul), I’ve been reading a book by Leighton Ford called “The Attentive Life”. I happened upon it at my parents’ house recently, and, as I have done probably too many times before, I absconded with it. If there is anything that daily reaffirms my belief in God, it’s this fabulous way of His of placing things right where I need them, right where I am most likely to stumble (blunderingly) over them. This one has a bright yellow-orange cover like a traffic cone, yelling WARNING- CONSTRUCTION AHEAD! STOP!! READ!!!

Ford’s premise is the same as many: life is too hectic, I am missing something, I need to slow down and smell the proverbial flora. He mentions many recognizable people throughout the book: C.S. Lewis, Simone Weil, Kierkegaard, Mother Teresa…and, in illustrations, gives examples of how they were able to listen and be attentive to He Who Calms the Waters.

I have to admit to a tendency towards hearing deficiency in many areas of my life. One of the things I have to regularly do in my language classes is to slow down, listen to the student, and glean not only the words coming out of the speaking apparatus, but the meaning (and person) behind them. Not deciding immediately what I think the person’s saying, but what they are actually saying.

This happens, as well, with my kids. “Enjoy them while you can, cause it goes *zip* like that!”- a lovely lady in my church always tells me. I get so busy doing things (an outward sign of my industry) that I forget about listening to things, noticing things. An attentiveness, not only to the physical world around me, but (as a person of faith) the spiritual world as well. Living like a haiku.

Now, I am about as far as a person can get from your average Psychic friend, but I do believe things are happening outside my awareness that I need to pay attention to. A friend of mine has a bumper sticker that reminds me of this…”Something wonderful is about to happen”. She follows a different tradition, but the point’s the same.

Ford proposes “observing the hours”, a Benedictine practice that had monks praying every few hours, the first (yikes) at 3 a.m., called Vigils, and continuing throughout the day. He suggests that doing this can aid in becoming more aware of God’s work in your life, and of the little things that we so often miss. I think I’m going to try this for a while…an experiment, if you will. I’m up at 3am sometimes with the Prophet anyway (less lately as he’s been sleeping through the night), so it might “work”. Although even whether it “works” or not isn’t very concerning. Awareness is a process, I think.

I’m ready to listen.

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

-T.S. Eliot

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3 Responses to The Attentive Life

  1. Evenshine says:

    ‘Glad you like “The Attentive Life” – I bought it for your father and he seems to really appreciate it as well! The idea for the book came as a result of some really outstanding quiet times lately, with a determination to “listen attentively” to passages like Exodus 30:15-21 (‘shared with you recently), Ephesians 4 (“living the life”) and different ones on wisdom. (PS: I’ll let him know where to look, should the book go missing…) ‘Love you! Mom

  2. evenshine says:

    I am looking forward to reading it more thoroughly, maybe NOT when I’m simultaneously in the midst of breastfeeding, tending to a 4-year-old, and letting the dog in and out… Meanwhile, I’ll try praying the hours…even that practice will be a great discipline. Thanks!

  3. antropologa says:

    Wait, you guys got a dog?

    It’s probably the same mechanism as meditating. Good for you to focus and slow down.

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