What You Pay Attention To Grows

“What you pay attention to grows.”

Psalm 100 – A Psalm of thanksgiving.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
   Worship the Lord with gladness;
   come into his presence with singing.
Know that the Lord is God.
   It is he that made us, and we are his;
   we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
   and his courts with praise.
   Give thanks to him, bless his name.
For the Lord is good;
   his steadfast love endures for ever,
   and his faithfulness to all generations.

I have been beginning my days with a 5-8 minute meditation for the past few weeks. I am not perfectly consistent with this practice, but I’ve been doing it a few times a week, and it makes such a difference for my entire day. I am always amazed how giving myself just five minutes to breathe, listen, and settle reorients the shifting feelings and impulses that fill my mind almost as soon as I wake up. I often emerge from the meditation ready to pray, write, or start my day with a presence and readiness I wouldn’t have otherwise.

I am also still sorting through some major transitions in my life. I know I share a doozy of a transition with many in our cluster, working and worshiping in a congregation that is in the midst of a call process. This reality has thrown many aspects of my day-to-day life up in the air like a game of 52-card pickup. While I’ve done my best to lead and work from a healthy place, the anxiety of so much change all at once is real.

Going through transition is stressful, but is also a very normal part of life. We live through changes every day, but only really notice some of them. We’ve learned that some of these changes aren’t worth our attention, or we try to ignore them until they are impacting us too much to ignore any longer. When we go through change and transition, we also might get hyper-focused on all that is different, or all that we wish were different. We may also find ourselves paying attention to all the things we’d like to change, now that we have the opportunity for something new, or we may spend all of our attention thinking about what we don’t like about change, or pining for how things used to be. The key in all of this being, what we are paying attention to; which has a lot of power and sway in our lives.

Deepak Chopra explains the power of attention in this way:

Attention is focused awareness. There are some basic requirements to be met. The first is being centered… Distraction is self-defeating. Second, your awareness focuses naturally when you have a desire. We focus on what we want. Third, attention works best when combined with intention – envisioning a way to fulfill your desire. When the three ingredients come together – you are centered, you have a desire, you intend to fulfill your desire – attention becomes extremely powerful.

Center, desire, and intention – these three components give us a lens in which to process our daily life and response to change. What, exactly, is getting my attention in the midst of this transition? Is it all of my stress? All of my fears, worries, or dislikes? How do I find my center? Where and when is my attention on God in the midst of all of this?

Similar to how 5-8 minutes of a meditation can shift my perspective for the rest of the day, I think giving attention to all that God has given us is just as powerful – if not more-so. What if, as we read in Psalm 100, we took time to sing/write/pray our gratitude and praise for God every single day? How might remembering God’s steadfast love every day center us? How would this type of attention shift the way we understand the transitions we find ourselves in? If it is true that what we pay attention to grows, would we find even more to be grateful for as the day continues? Ultimately, our gratitude becomes reminders of what makes our life such a gift. Imagine the gifts we will unwrap when we turn our attention to gratitude in every area of our lives – our congregations, our community, our families. Now that sounds like abundant life.

Let us pray…

All-encompassing God,
You are all and all that we have is yours. Open our hearts and minds to you, so that our attention is always on you, your gifts, and your will. Help us to live confident in you and the gifts that fill our lives. Amen.

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