05/21/2015 11:17 am ET Updated May 21, 2016

Attention Is the Currency of Care


Even the most simple dictionary definition reveals that the act of paying attention is an act of care. It means that you regard someone or something as interesting or important. Above all others, you have chosen to tend to them in this moment, for attention can only truly be given to one thing at a time. Attention is the medium for the exchange of everything in your life that is worthwhile. Without it you cannot give or receive kindness, compassion, love, guidance or support. Without it you cannot experience beauty, inspiration or wonder. Without it we are disconnected not only from each other, but also from ourselves. The breakdown in the ready flow of attention is the end of care.

Excerpt from Author's book One Moment Please:Time to Revive the Dying Art of Attention.

Recently I was told a beautiful story by a client, let's call her Pam. Earlier this month, on a day like any other, Pam was travelling to work on the train. But on this day something different happened. She decided to unplug. She took out the earphones that were her usual companion on the commute. Instead of listening to music she decided to simply be present to what was going on around her. She soon became aware of sobs coming from the seat near the train door. A young woman was on the phone speaking in French to the person on the other end. Pam didn't know what she was talking about, but one thing she knew for sure was that the woman was distressed. In that moment of awareness, she reached into her bag and pulled out a small packet of tissues. She walked over to the young woman who was still on the phone, and placed the packet on her knee. She looked her in the eye and gave her a loving smile. This moment of full attention, of being present, was a true gift, a real act of care.

The young woman disembarked at the next stop but before doing so she walked over and thanked Pam "Merci, merci beaucoup". "She seemed to get off the train with her head held high and a glimmer of strength to face the challenge before her." Pam reported. "But that wasn't the gift," Pam said. "That moment of attention completely filled me up. I went through the rest of the day with a very different approach to myself and those around me."

How many opportunities to be part of something meaningful do you miss because your attention is being frittered away on the meaningless? It's nice to listen to music on your trip to work, but if you're doing so because you believe there is nothing worthwhile happening in your world, then you are sorely mistaken.

Had she not unplugged from her earphones Pam would not have seen the opportunity to give care, but she would also have missed an opportunity to be fulfilled by a making a true connection with life. Attention is the medium for exchange of everything worthwhile in life. If you're not awake, you're going to miss it. With one simple act you can keep the currency of care flowing generously around the world. Don't underestimate the impact of a moment of connection with a random person, nor should you anticipate what it might bring. Our world turns on the flow of clear, open attention. If you play the important role of keeping attention moving, you have made a difference today.

Where are you blocking the flow of attention? Where can you give this precious gift more generously?