A Shift of Attention

We are all well practiced in knowing what is wrong with our lives. Our mate is thoughtless; we had to wait for an hour at the hospital; no parking spot; the car didn’t start; the bank made an error; our credit card was hacked; our friend disappointed us; bad news again from our oncologist. Historically, being aware of the negative and all the possible things that could go wrong was part of our survival kit. It was more important to have heightened awareness to a possible attack by a sabre-toothed tiger, if we wanted to survive, than to admire the beautiful sunset.

So here we are in 2018 and that same survival technique can now cause us unnecessary suffering when we use our attention to only notice what is wrong with our lives. Those things that are wrong, by the way, are still inconvenient and harsh and need to be dealt with. We hope to influence the situation for the better. In truth, we ignore real life problems at our peril.

However, we have a chance to influence the quality of our everyday lives by occasionally observing the benefits we receive from often overlooked ordinary objects. Benefits that mostly blur into the background and, therefore, we don’t give them a moment’s thought.

I recently had occasion to assess the benefits I have received from my car, as an example. On my recent trip to Vermont, I glanced at the odometer of my ten year old Toyota and observed that I will have travelled 100,000 KM in my car by the time I returned home. I started thinking about what this car has provided me in the course of one decade:

  • It chauffeured me safely back and forth to my treatments at Tom Baker Cancer Centre for six additional months, through rain, snow, blizzards and sunny days.
  • It carried me across the country when I moved to Ottawa.
  • It was my reliable transportation on a return trip from Ottawa to Cape Breton Island where I did my first cycling trip around the Cabot Trail. Even though I was anxious, scared and tense on that first big trip alone, the car reliably did what it was designed to do. Even the unknown people who helped put my vehicle together crossed my mind.
  • It allowed me to drive my grandchildren to math, music, Dr. Appointments, shopping, playdates, school, museums, picnics, and all the while provided a container for discussion, laughter, stories, philosophy, plans, multiplication tables, singing, and music. (Especially Leonard Cohen – I think we all learned the words to most of our favourite songs)
  • It carried five of us plus four bikes and luggage to the Eastern townships, where we spent a week cycling for my 70th The car was our faithful Sherpa, on that trip, along with the designated driver.
  • It has carried balloons that filled the car for celebrations. And food. And gifts. All of which leave me with memories of happy times.
  • It has provided transportation to Quebec City in the winter, twice. Quebec City is one of my most treasured cities, especially in winter, where it is sheer magic.
  • It carries me routinely to the Experimental Farm Garden, where I am in bliss amongst the beauty of the seasonal flowers.

I am often awestruck by the wonders of nature. I am also in awe by the wonders of flight, my fountain pen or my iPhone, which is more powerful and versatile than many of my previous computers. And this week I have a great sense of awesomeness for my car. That for ten years, it has carried me and my loved ones safely, 100,000 KM through all kinds of weather, and provided access to so many wonderful memories. Those listed above being only a sample.

Through the worst of times we can shift our attention to include things that aren’t regularly showing up on our internal radar. This can provide balance, and give us temporary mental relief when we take some time to reflect on the everyday things in our lives that serve us. We notice  things most often, when they don’t work or are gone. Today, while I consider my car. I offer a word of thanks.

Note: Ottawa experienced a devastating tornado last Thursday, and there are still tens of thousands of homes without power. My cousin is one of those people. She called and commented how she had never appreciated until now, how much she relied on power. And her great appreciation extended to the hydro crews and the sacrifices and dedication they are making to restore power as quickly as possible.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. See you next week, Trudy

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