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Love, step 1: Gifting Attention

September 16, 2008

There is an excerpt that I like from the book Ways of Enspiriting by Warren Ziegler that addresses attention:

“One day a man of the people said to Zen Master Ikkyu: ‘Master, will you please write me the maxims of highest wisdom?’ Ikkyu immediately took his brush and wrote the word, ‘Attention.’ ‘Is that all?’ asked the man. ‘Will you not add something more?’ Ikkyu then wrote twice running: ‘Attention. Attention.’ ‘Well,’ remarked the man rather irritably, ‘I really don’t see much depth or subtlety in what you have just written.’ Then Ikkyu wrote the same word three times running: ‘Attention. Attention. Attention.’ Half angered, the man demanded: ‘What does the word attention mean, anyway?’ And Ikkyu answered gently: ‘Attention means ATTENTION.'”

There is something elemental in the concept and practice of giving attention that we cannot sufficiently replace with anything else—not a check to charity, not a gift to a loved one. It is true that our attention may ultimately lead to other forms of giving, but attention is, intuitively, an unavoidable gatekeeper and toll collector on the road to love, and a mandatory checkpoint through which we must pass if we desire to enter into the realm of loving and being loved. If anything is given without first giving attention, how genuinely love-filled can the gift be? Another author has written, “Where your attention is, there will your heart be also,” suggesting that attention is not only the gatekeeper, but our guide, subtly pointing us to the person or thing in which our love will ultimately become invested. Whether it is to our neighbor, our sibling, our parent, our child, our enemy, a child in an impoverished nation, or any passerby in our path of living, we cannot experience love for them unless we first have the experience of giving attention to them. Daniel Goleman is a Harvard psychologist who studies emotion and relationships. He recently gave a talk that he entitled, “Why aren’t we all Good Samaritans?” The answers that came back from research on the topic indicating that the single most powerful predicting factor that determined whether or not someone stopped to help another was simply this: whether or not the individual felt like they were in a hurry. The video for Goleman’s talk can be accessed here:

Why aren’t we all Good Samaritans?

We in the industrialized West live in a fast-paced, competitive world. We are extremely busy and often must be so in order to simply keep up. I wonder if our increase in hurry and busyness is perhaps the chief vampire that clings to us, sucking out our motivation to give attention, and, consequently, sucking out our ability to experience love. What is the remedy? Many ideas could be proposed. I will close with an excerpt from The Little Prince that gives me something to think about in my own life:

“Good morning,” said the little prince. “Good morning,” said the merchant. This was a merchant who sold pills that had been invented to quench thirst. You need only swallow one pill a week, and you would feel no need of anything to drink. “Why are you selling those?” asked the little prince. “Because they save a tremendous amount of time,” said the merchant. “Computations have been made by experts. With these pills, you save fifty-three minutes in every week.” “And what do I do with those fifty-three minutes?” “Anything you like…” “As for me,” said the little prince to himself, “if I had fifty-three minutes to spend as I liked, I should walk at my leisure toward a spring of fresh water.”

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3 Comments
  1. Wow. I never really thought about love and attention as being THAT intertwined….and it completely makes sense. We have developed this “busy” lifestyle. We must do this and do that and have lunch there with them and work out at this time and see these friends on these days and go to that on that night…. We have gotten so accustom to our schedule that we forget what we give our attention to is what we get….. Now I do not think that being busy will bring about a non loving lifestyle, for I am the first one to remind myself that the more that I have to do in a day, the more I get done….but what I am saying (and what I think this blog is about) is we all have love in our life, for we are loving beings and we all want to experience it more purely and to do that we must give it more attention. To have love, you have to make time for it. And to make time for it you have to be attentive to it.

    Thank you for reminding me what I have so gently forgotten.

    Be well and have a beautiful day,

    Jessie Elizabeth

  2. l want to talk about a favorite word of mine: Kigatsuku!

    Kigatsuku= 1) notice; become aware (conscious) of; be attentive. 2) cometo oneself; recover consciousness.

    Kigatsuku is a Japenes word so I looked up the kanjis. Ki is the same as ‘genki’, which means spirit or feelings. Tsuku is the verb to stick to, to catch fire, or belighted. So, it’s basically saying my spirit or feelings are energized (or something like that).I also read on a random blog that the Japanese word Kigatsuku means “an inner spirit to act without being told what to do.”

    The closest work to Kigatsuky in Eglish I can think of is Initiative or in relation to this post Attention. Someone who has Kisgatsuku is someone who is aware of their surroundings. They pay attention to the people around them, what roles they play and roles people play in their lives. They are assertive and are not compelled to do so. Someone who has the spirit of Kigatsuku is someone who is pays attention to details and to hearts. (which ties into my post that I have a link to below).

    I also recently posted a blog about hearts that I think pertains to attention and love. You can find it here:http://kyleeshields.blogspot.com/2008/09/quiet-hearts.html.

  3. Ivan permalink

    Great post.

    I guess to me what it all boils down to is living in the moment. There is no greater feeling, in my opinion, than being engrossed in a conversation where little else matters and people are giving each other undivided attention.

    I think networking sites like Facebook are wonderful because it allows us to keep in touch with friends without having to make much effort, but sometimes the effort is what’s important. We, as a society, are losing that personal connection and I think we have to work harder at reaching out because, while the alternative is so much easier, it is also incredibly less fulfilling.

    You know the people all over Manhattan that hand out the flyers and menus? I used to walk right past them until one day I decided that there has to be a nicer way. That is, after all, that person’s job and I can’t imagine they particularly enjoy it. So I’ve started accepting all of the flyers and smiling and saying thank you. 95% of the time I end up throwing the flyer away, but atleast I’m not treating that person as invisible. And you can tell that it makes that person feel better.

    I’ll have to keep the word attention at the forefront of my mind. Thanks.

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