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Curious Attention

I challenged my students to an awareness exercise over the next few weeks. As they head in to the hectic holiday season, I asked them to pay attention whenever they are in a crowd (at the mall, the supermarket, etc.). But specifically I asked them to pay attention to how many people around them were actually paying attention to their surroundings versus focused on the task at hand.

Actually there are two homework assignments. The first is to even remember they HAVE a homework assignment outside the dojo walls. The second is to actually complete the homework. The suggestion I always have when doing these awareness exercises is to do them with a sense of curiosity of the world around us. It is easy to start focusing on the bad, on the fear of all the things that could happen. While it is important to pay attention so we are prepared in case something does happen, it is equally important to keep from becoming paranoid or anxious every time we step outside the door.

This simple homework assignment brings in to stark clarity how many times people do not pay attention. (Also, just going through the exercise can help remind us when WE are not aware.) Not paying attention has self-defense consequences, but also means we miss out on so much of the world around us. Stay aware, stay connected … life is so much richer than the shopping list in your hand or the social media comment you just received!

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