“Ten times a day something happens to me like this - some strengthening throb of amazement - some good sweet emphatic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.” Mary Oliver
“The soul exists and is built out of attentiveness” - what an interesting thought. The soul, the thing within us that makes us distinctly who we are, is built or brought to life by simply being attentive.
What do you think of when you hear the word attentive? I think of paying attention in class, or carefully watching young children, or taking care of a loved one who’s sick. But what would it look like to be attentive on a morning walk? Or while cooking dinner for your family? What would you see, what would you smell, what would you feel if you were truly attentive in those moments?
Sometimes I think we live with our eyes locked on what’s next. On things like our to-do lists and schedules and financial goals. None of which are bad, but sometimes our attention is so completely on them we miss how green the leaves are from the rain and how saturated the colors are from the gray looming clouds. We miss our husband’s adorable smile when he plays with the dog and how fantastic the kitchen smells when we cook with fresh basil. We miss conversations with our friends waiting in line at the coffee shop and with our families while we eat our crunchy peanut butter toast before everyone runs out the door.
We miss big moments and little ones, but why does it matter? What is it that we’re really missing?
The poet Mary Oliver, suggests that these things, these small twinkling moments, are the sparks that set our souls on fire. When we miss them, we miss an opportunity to be set ablaze, to remember or realize who we are and what excites and moves us. We miss the opportunity to feel deeply and intimately ourselves.
She talks about a “strengthening throb of amazement” - when was the last time you experienced this? When was the last time you saw or heard or smelled something so amazing that you felt your soul swell within you? Like butterflies in your stomach. When was the last time you let beauty take your breath away?
One of the many reasons the digital age makes being bona fide difficult is that it steals our attention away from the life we are meant to be living. The human, physical, messy, sticky life we were made to experience; and how are we going to be to be ourselves, how are we going to be real and genuine, if we don’t create the time and space to really know ourselves?
Who you are is made up of stories from the past and dreams for the future, but exists and is being built in the present. To be bona fide, you have to be awake to life, you have to be attentive to all you’re experiencing here and now.
So be present, be bona fide, and soak in the magical world around you. Let it stir your soul to life.