Perseverance: Paying Attention
Ponderings of the Spiritual Life Director
Pay close attention to your life and your teaching. Persevere in these things, because if you do so, you will save both yourself and those who listen to you. 1 Timothy 4:16
What we pay attention to grows. If we listen to the deepest yearnings of our souls, pay attention to them every day, then we can persevere in nurturing the seeds and growing them until they bloom. If we persevere, the beauty of our souls can be reflected in reality and our values come into power. But getting their requires patience and taking things one step at a time.
Here’s one thing that torments my soul: single-use plastic. I get that sick feeling in my stomach every time I throw plastic away. My soul yearns for a greener way to live so I can feel good about taking action that is in line with my values, therefore creating an internal harmony. But it’s such a conundrum trying to get away from plastic and since it seems literally impossible, it’s so easy to just give up and not think about. But that guilty feeling in my stomach keeps nagging at me. It’s a reminder that I am at odds with my values. It’s a reminder that I am letting other people, deeply entrenched in a system of oppression and destruction, have power over me.
So, one very small step at a time…
My first step has been paying attention. I’m saying to that nagging little voice that is appalled at single-use plastic– ok, I hear you and I value you. I promised that voice that I would honor it the next time I go to the store by paying attention to everything I put in my cart. If plastic packaging is surrounding the product I want to buy, I’m going to ask myself if there’s a readily available and affordable alternative. And also, do I really need to be buying this product right now?
I went to the store last night, filled up my cart with the week’s groceries, and did just this with every single product. My choices were way more limited than I would have liked, but I did have a very small amount of success in the soap aisle. Normally, I buy shower gel in a plastic bottle. But last night, I found some wonderfully smelling, natural ingredient soaps wrapped in paper. I bought a few to try out and when I got home and unpacked my groceries, I felt good despite the fact that I still brought home a bunch of items wrapped in plastic. That one small step made me feel enough joy to want to keep on the path towards living my values. And it really wasn’t that hard, even if it took me a little extra time. I feel inspired now to find more ways to acquire the things I need without also acquiring the single-use plastic. I paid attention, and the actions are growing, one small step at a time. I imagine that if I continued to ignore that nagging voice, I’d just get that guilty, uninspiring feeling and nothing good for Mother Earth and all her creatures would come from that.
Here’s one more, simple thing I’m going to do to keep myself paying attention and on the path to inner and outer harmony:
I’m going to keep this visual reminder of my greater goal visible to me at all times.
It’s a photograph I took myself. I remember stumbling upon this nature made chalice in the woods in Wisconsin. I stopped to take a picture, and the dragonfly landed. What timing! I remember the smell of the fresh breeze, the feel of the warm sun on my body, and the delightful greenness of the world around me. Such a deep reverence this experience cultivated in me. It inspires me to honor the glory and the miracle of nature as I make purchase decisions. Remembering it inspires me to pay more attention. I have that power. So, I will keep this picture on my desk, in my wallet, on my mirror and I won’t forget to pay attention. I will then do better each and every day. This is but a small step in persevering and letting my values come into power.
What inspires you to take action and live your values? Can you find a picture to remind you? Can you take one small step at a time and feel good about the small accomplishments you’ve made each day?
Together, we can persevere in bringing more love and justice into this world!