It’s hard, sometimes, to see the forest for the trees, isn’t it? In the midst of the goings on in our lives, the hubbub, the chaos, the drama and the noise, it can be tough to find the wherewithal to take notice of things directly in front of us that may be motivating, may serve as a pleasant reminder or that may bring us peace.
A program I have participated in for the past seven years always begins with a spiritual reading. I know this reading by heart and, because of this, I often use this time to plan a work project, create grocery lists, and think about deadlines, schedules, finances, my kids or all of the above. Obviously, I hear the words in the background but I’m too busy focusing on other things to really listen to the message…and it gets lost. The sad part is that I really need to hear the message because it is has tremendous impact!
Yesterday, during the reading, I was thinking about important things - okay, well really daydreaming - and two women sitting nearby were using this time to catch up with one another sotto voce. I snapped to attention; however, when one of my closest friends sitting to my left, looked at the offenders, raised up her hand and shushed them saying “I need to hear this.”
Besides being amazed at my friend’s tenacity - doesn’t she worry that these women won’t like her for speaking up - I realized the impact of her statement on my own self. Instead of thinking of mundane distractions, I should focus on what the reader is saying. Even though I’ve heard it many times over, something is bound to jump out that I need to hear today. I, too, need to hear that message and not just by accident. I need to strive to put my mind’s chaos on the back burner and turn my attention toward the outside world once in a while.
And why stop there? Why not pay attention to the scenery when driving, the joyful noise of kids laughing delightfully on another floor, dogs playing, passersby, all of the beauty of the world that is just waiting to be noticed? In the Buddhist tradition, this is called mindfulness - that state of being aware of one’s surroundings, feelings, and emotions. I’m pretty sure that getting my mind off of all the things I need to do is a good thing - so why not distract myself from myself by listening and by seeing all the wonderful things happening around me. Why not pay attention and make the decision to see the forest AND the trees??