Monday, March 19, 2007

attention creates self

"I would never again accept anyone's word about anything having to do with my life unless, having examined it from every angle, matched it aginst how it felt in my heart, my gut, my head, I knew it fit my own real feelings, how I viewed life and my own real experiences. I, and nobody else, would determine what my own real experiences were and had been."
Sharon Butala, The Perfection of the Morning

The Perfection of the Morning is one of those works that has lingered in the periphery of my attention. There was a time when I studied Canadian literature avidly, and felt the need to read everything, and yet this book waited for me until now. It is not so much about nature, although nature is often used to categorize it. It is a book about discovering that interest resides not in the quality of the thing observed, but in the quality with which we pay attention to it.

It is no stranger that I should end up teaching NLP than that Sharon Butala should be taught to pay attention by an isolated ranch in a difficult landscape. Often, I notice similarities. Like Butala, I was not a good fit for the drudge work and politics of academics. And now I am aware of being a stranger in a world that seems arid and rocky: a world that combines the harsh realities of entrepreneurship with the extravagant, empty promises of the self-help industry.

Yet, in improbable places led by improbable guides, I have now a stronger sense of how one builds integrity by matching experience against how it feels in heart and gut and head. And I am privileged to see the people who train with us discovering that there is not only struggle in this process: there is also laughter and a surprising ease when someone takes something difficult and fits it into a personal puzzle. Paying attention to the whole of our perceptions offers a sense of things coming together, a deeper presence.

It is a remarkable experience to pay attention to people who are noticing, often for the first time, that they are capable of layering depth and precision into their experience of themselves and other people. They discover that paying attention does not drain their energy: it creates intention, integration and momentum.

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