The Art of Paying Attention

Whenever I hear about a personal injury or accident, the description is almost always followed by a disclaimer such as “It was something stupid . . .” or “I was not paying attention”.  One of the goals of both Yoga and Pilates is to promote awareness of how your own body works and to encourage attention to the details of movement.  This may not always be as easy as it sounds, but can be accomplished through practice.  That’s what our classes are all about – helping you set aside the time to practice moving mindfully.  The more you practice, the more your focus and self-knowledge will improve.  Then as you bring these techniques into your everyday life, you may find that by paying attention your movement may seem easier.  Perhaps you will even be able to avoid injury or at least recover more quickly.  And maybe you will even gain a greater appreciation for your miraculous ability to move and breathe.  We are all fallible humans so this process is not likely to be foolproof, but improvement is always possible.

In  the article  “Attention Means Attention” in Tricycle Magazine,  Charlotte Joko Beck, Zen teacher, author and founder of the Ordinary Mind Zen School, says:

“Every moment in life is absolute in itself. That’s all there is. There is nothing other than this present moment . . . So when we don’t pay attention to each little this, we miss the whole thing.”

It doesn’t matter what the contents of the moment are. . . each moment is absolute. If we could totally pay attention, we would never be upset. If we’re upset, it’s axiomatic that we’re not paying attention.

Our problems arise when we subordinate this moment to something else, our self-centered thoughts: not just this moment, but what I want. We bring to the moment our personal priorities, all day long. And so our troubles arise.

When attention to the present moment falters and we drift into some version of “I have to have it my way,” a gap is created in our awareness of reality as it is, right now. Into that gap pours all the mischief of our life. We create gap after gap after gap, all day long. The point of practice is to close those gaps, to reduce the amount of time that we spend being absent, caught in our self-centered dream.”

So if you are tempted not to come to class or to skip your practice, one way to motivate yourself might be to remember that all of us are practicing together.  We all need help eliminating the gaps in our awareness.  Each day is a new opportunity to start again.  Knowing that others are also working at this can be comforting and strengthening.   When you focus on  your practice, you are not just improving yourself, but also helping all of those around you – simply by paying attention.

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