Posted by: birdmaddgirl | 15 January 2010

What You Attend To

i would be remiss if i did not first say that i hope everyone in Haiti receives the care and attention they need right now. if you haven’t already, please consider making a small donation to a reputable aid organization active in the country. a list compiled by the New York Times can be found here. (always donate to a cause and organization that ring true to you.) i personally have donated via Partners In Health, an organization that has worked in Haiti for 25 years, and Yele Haiti, a grassroots organization that supports arts, sports, and education in Haitian communities founded by Wyclef Jean in 2005. it takes only a very little from many of us to make a huge difference for these people.

oh the world! how strangely you intersect with the self!

i read a quote this morning in an article, attributed to Jim Loehr, that i liked: “Your life is what you agree to attend to.”

the implication of this that i am focusing on for the moment is the notion of complicit assent. if you give your attention to something, whether you do so with mindfulness and intentionality or out of an automatic reaction, you agree to give it a place in your life. maybe for five minutes, maybe for a day, maybe for years. but you have agreed to it. this seems true to me.

it is too easy to give attention to whatever just popped up. especially easy to give negative attention. i am feeling resentful today towards an author’s assistant. the assistant is a perfectly nice person; however, the assistant also does not seem to have read the long, carefully-crafted, detailed emails i have sent regarding final manuscript submission. (this is, by the way, not an unusual situation with authors or assistants in my experience.) the assistant is making me feel that i am wasting my time in trying to communicate. what i am noticing in myself is that it is very easy to give my attention to these feelings of frustration and anger. it is much harder to let go of the whole episode and give my attention to other things that need doing. i am attending to the frustration and letting it have my time.

for the record, i don’t really want to give up my time to anger. i have better things to do with my time. and when i put it that way, it seems like an even bigger waste of time. i do not want to be defined, even in the short term, by a reaction such as this.

of course, acknowledging all this doesn’t actually make me feel less frustrated. well, maybe a little less. but still.

in a more positive example, i think one of the reasons that many regularly-practicing yogis are highly conscious of their food decisions is that yoga leads to paying attention to the body – something that American culture at large does not cultivate in healthy ways at the moment. and my observations tell me that this is true regardless of dietary decisions: omnivores, herbivores, vegans, whatever. the people i know who take yoga seriously take food seriously too. they pay attention to what they eat.

i’m pescetarian more out of this sense of mindfulness, of paying attention to my food, than out of ethical conviction. i don’t even want to touch the ethical conviction stuff, except to say that even ethical conviction is not a one- or two-dimensional approach, and i acknowledge that a wide range of ethical convictions exist relating to food consumption. i’ve personally chosen to be pescetarian because: 1) it is often very easy to find out where the fish you buy comes from, 2) i am not willing to give up sushi, 3) although i enjoy meat from all kinds of animals, i ate it infrequently and without any real quality control.

i want to actively pay more attention to my food choices. this type of decision making stems directly from my yoga practice. i am applying the same mindfulness principles to the vegetables and dairy that i eat – hence boston organics and local dairy deliveries. it’s easy to be lazy about decision making and consciousness. attention requires more than just the decision to eat or not eat meat or what types of meat to eat. it applies to everything i eat, although from the perspective of reality money and discipline also play into it. i want to pay attention and to make more of my life consistent with my ideals of both myself and the world.

there’s also, tangentially, the question of quality of attention, but that’s for another day.

what deserves more of your attention?



  1. I too need to be more attentive to food. It’s something I’ve been slowly evolving better attention to, though in more of a preparatory way. Like I’ve been practicing to be conscientious without actually practicing conscientiousness itself. There may be enough of a foundation now to begin doing the latter. I hope so.

    This generally applies to every other aspect of my life too, so I’ll narrow it into broad categories that deserve more or better attention: career and constitution.

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