On Paying Attention

It seems like so little to do, doesn’t it? Just look. Just watch. Just pay attention.

Of course it isn’t easy at all, nor is it little. It isn’t only in Zen that it’s one of the things that are The Most Important Things.


The writer Neville Ward quotes the inimitable Colette as saying this to a young writer: “Look for a long time at what pleases you, and longer still at what pains you.”

Then he goes on to quote an admirer of hers:

When we, in turn, watch Colette watching, we realize that, along with love and work, this is the third great salvation, or form of prayer, which we have been given. For whenever someone is seriously watching, a form of his lost innocence is restored. It will not last, but during those minutes his self-consciousness is relieved. He is less corrupt. He forgets he is going to die. He is very close to that state of grace for which Colette reserved the word ‘pure.’

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6 Responses to On Paying Attention

  1. Pauline says:

    To lose oneself in contemplation, to notice and rejoice in the smallest things – a breeze, a scent, a color or shape, the sound of laughter – is, as Ward says, being in a state of grace. And it doesn’t last but it can be so oft repeated as to seem to last. That relief of self consciousness comes from not being the sole center of your own universe, from letting something or someone else be as important as you are. And it is the loveliest of feelings!


  2. Rebekah says:

    Going out to the ocean puts things in proportion … watching it heave, the crashing waves, the tide … the rocks on the beach … just sitting there contemplating how little I am. I do it often.

    Now I’ve read about Colette, of whom I knew nothing before.


    • Touch2Touch says:

      It’s some big world! And so full of a number of things —
      Endlessly interesting, if also sometimes frustrating, or complicated, or painful.

      For me, it’s the desert mountains that put things in proportion —


  3. Jen Payne says:

    YOU know this has been a recent study of mine. Thank you for the amazing quote and inspiration!


    • Touch2Touch says:

      It’s in the air —
      Like your blog, several others I follow have been honing in on this theme– from several different angles. Synchronicity?
      Anyway, I love this quote and have had it in my commonplace book for years. It seemed like a good time to bring it forward.


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