Paying Attention

Paying attention requires no equipment, no special clothes, no greens fees or personal trainers. You do not even have to be in particularly good shape. All you need is a body on this earth, willing to notice where it is, trusting that even something as small as a hazelnut can become an altar in this world.


~ Barbara Brown Taylor

attention

Pay Attention

If you’ve been reading my blog over the last 5+ years, it probably won’t surprise you why I loved this quote. I write about paying attention to the small moments of life on a regular basis. I frequently use the hashtags #lookup and #payattention on my Instagram and Twitter posts and am fond of catching images that are far above my head or down at my feet.

I love paying attention.

Being an introvert has always given me the gift of watching. I’d much rather hang to the side of a party, or sit on the edge of a group and just watch what is going on. I notice body language, gestures, and simple movements. I watch how people catch each other’s eyes when they want to make an impression, and how the touch of a hand on a shoulder, an aggressive hug or a tensed smile can reveal so much.

I pay attention to my students when we speak, often crouching down to get to their desk/eye level – or standing on my tippy toes to reach the really tall ones! I absolutely love when kids get lost in their conversations and forget I’m in the room – that’s really the time when I learn so much about what’s important to them.

And to my own children, I strive to pay attention to not only what they do when they’re at home, but also when they’re away and standing on their own. Part of my greatest joy as a parent has come in watching my kids ‘adulting’ – making their own decisions, both large and complicated and small and somewhat insignificant. I love watching how they react to situations, like problems with a roommate or frustration with a teacher. I honestly believe that the best parenting I can do really involves just being a ‘body’ willing to notice what is going on in their lives.

When I’m walking, paying attention requires no equipment. I’ve got my face forward, feet sturdy beneath me, and my dog to my side. I’ve sometimes got the sun on my face, or the mist on my jacket as I walk my favorite trail, past the same corners and ponds, not even in particularly good shape but willing, so willing, to notice the curve of a tree branch, the rustle of bird wings, or the delicateness of a cloud. I look up, I gaze down, I trust that my consistency in paying attention to the extraordinary in the ordinary world around me will make all the difference.

Today, just for a moment, try to pause. Look up.  What do you see? Can you feel a breeze on your skin? Breathe in deeply. Pause, and listen to the sounds that surround you. Be present. Be here, now.

Pay attention.

I’d love it if you’d share your observations in the comments – just a few words, a snapshot of where you are. It’s the small moments that count the most, really.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Learn To Do Everything Lightly: Words From Aldous Huxley

” It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. 

Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. 

I was so preposterously serious in those days… Lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me…So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. 

That’s why you must walk so lightly, my darling…”

~Aldous Huxley –  from Island 

lightly

Feelings are a struggle for me.

I’ve written before about my introverted self, and how hard it is for me to disconnect from the emotions that build up inside, whether it’s from working with my students and guiding them through their own challenges, or coming home and trying to balance teaching and motherhood, or coping with the transitions of motherhood from being a full-time mom to having one child away in college.

Sometimes I wish it could just ease up, that I could NOT feel…

It’s taken me awhile to realize that because discarding feelings easily is a struggle for me, I need to create rhythms and mantras in my day that not only help me to ease away from emotions but also to remember that the goal for me is to be here, now.

Stepping gently, avoiding the triggers that sink me into my own sort of ‘quicksands’ – learning to walk without slumping under the weight of my feelings has taken me half a century, but I’m getting there.

What triggers you, what sucks at your feet and keeps you from walking without burdens pushing you down?

I’d love to hear how you avoid falling into those quicksands, too.

Words are the spark that ignites my soul. I am a collector of language in all forms, not a hoarder. The extraordinary beauty of the written word must be shared. These monthly posts, inspired by another’s words, are my gifts of beauty and spirit, shared with love.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Introverts, Surround Yourself With Love

Introverts, Surround Yourself With Love 

To be honest, I’m a classic introvert. On any magazine – er, online – quiz, I score shockingly high in everything introverted. I regroup best when I’m alone. I’m most often found at home, or wandering around alone in bookstores or libraries. I love long walks alone or with one other person. I delight in finding secluded, out of the way places to hang out. I enjoy being around people, in small doses, as long as I can retreat and recharge afterward. I don’t mind staying home on a Friday night, parked in my comfy chair with a great novel and the fan gently blowing to block out any distractions.

This can present definite problems -especially when I have to teach. Or parent. Or go outside.

Introverts unite!
Most days, I’m happy just hanging out with my book. Introverts unite!

As a teacher, I often feel like an introvert in an extroverted job, exhausted by the sheer volume of people and interactions and decisions I need to make within a day.

As a mom, especially when my children were young, I found it nearly impossible to get that precious time to myself that was so crucial to my ability to feel like I could make it through the day intact.

As a writer, introversion suits me just fine. Words, language, silent communication – they all slip neatly into my day, offering the energy I need to not only make sense of the world but to make sense of me.

Thankfully, I’ve learned a few tricks to help me survive in a world that has always seemed pretty overwhelming. I’ve learned how to make small talk (I hate it, but it helps to have a few things to say to avoid people thinking I’m rude when really I’m just shy). I’ve learned to lock my door during my lunch hour to give me at least fifteen minutes of uninterrupted solitude – transitions are hard for introverts. I’ve learned to name my personality type, and to my great surprise, I’ve found that many of the people I interact with each day are introverts, too.

Introverts, Surround Yourself With Love
Surrounding myself with love

One of the most important pieces to surviving as an introvert in an extroverted world has been thinking carefully about social interactions and choosing carefully what I really want to do versus what I feel like I should do – and deciding who the people are that I most want to interact with. Introverts, surround yourself with love.

 

Being an introvert means that social situations involving large numbers of people are particularly problematic. I simply don’t like them, and I’ve decided that I have the power to choose – and most of the times, I go with my gut. I choose to surround myself with people who make me feel good, people who aren’t toxic, people who are thinkers and curious and like to walk through the world showing kindness.

Particularly in times like this, when the media is coming at us from every angle with meanness and hateful words and actions against others…it’s more than I can take. It’s more than anyone should have to see and hear and take in. Too much toxicity, too many unhealthy images and words battling to get inside our psyches.

Introverts, Surround Yourself With Love

Introverts are particularly susceptible to ‘people’ energy, requiring us to think deeply about those people we surround ourselves with. Even though it might not seem like much, when we take a few moments to think about who we are around and how they are making us feel, we introverts (and really, all of us) can take our power back. Just think for a minute how you spend your day, what kind of people make you feel loved and fulfilled and happy. If you consciously choose to surround yourself with love, imagine how infectious that could be. And imagine what would happen if we taught our children to do the same.
Who or what are you surrounding yourself with?

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Inquiring Minds-What I Wish I Knew

I sure wish I had the guts to ask a psychic about what my future holds. It’s kind of funny, really- as a kid I was never one of those people who knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. I didn’t have driving passions throughout high school- unless you counted my passion to get out of there as quickly as possible. In college I switched majors three times, and didn’t decide to become a teacher until the second semester of my senior year. I absolutely didn’t have life planned out whatsoever. I guess back then I was somehow OK with that. Young, naive, I’m not sure.

But now, I’m realizing  I’d rather not know all the details about my future. I understand that to let grace happen, I need to trust that for now, things are happening as they should be. Teaching for 25 years has challenged me to both plan ahead and practice flexibility. I’m consciously trying to live in the present, which for a type-A-control-freak like me takes tons of energy. I’m realizing that being a teacher plays well into my style, but the negatives of always having a “lesson plan” can be super detrimental to other parts of my life. If becoming a mom taught me anything, it was that we can’t control other humans – no matter how hard I tried to get my first born to follow my lesson plan, she always had an idea to do it her way, and that’s exactly the way it should be.

inquiring minds choices

OK-I’ll be honest – as much as I’m realizing it’s best not to “future trip”, I’d love to just have a teeny, tiny peek into what might be coming up next for me. I’ve been feeling these stirrings in my heart for the last few years- and I’ve been trying to acknowledge them and allow for openings in my work life. Teaching is hard, and it’s getting to the point where I just can’t imagine continuing like this until I retire. I’d love for someone to ask me to write a book. About anything. And pay me, so I could back off from teaching 120% and just teach part time- or not at all. One thing I know, is that I can’t last teaching like this until I can retire at 65. I’ll have nothing left of me.

So I push myself to talk to new people, figuring that I never know what serendipitous moment the Universe might be offering me. I’m a natural-born introvert working in a very extroverted job, so my favorite icebreaker question is “What are you reading?”  I’m one of those people who connects with people through books. When I go to someone’s house for the first time, if I don’t see stacks of books I get worried. I’m most comfortable scanning bookshelves for something to share in common with a new friend; their book titles will show me their values and interests and let me know if we are like-minded. And if I realize their books are just for “show”- well, that’s a real deal breaker.

So for now, I’ll skip the psychic and trust the marvelous mystery of the Universe. I’ll shorten my life lesson plan to just the next week or so, and be sure to build in moments for grace to step in. Heck, we never know who the person we’re standing next to at a lacrosse game might turn out to be, or where the person holding the door open to the next opening in life might show up. It’s always best to be alert, watch out of the corner of my eye, and see what these folks have to say. Grace shows up once in awhile in the most extraordinary ways, and I’m ready to see what the future holds.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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What Is The Best Way To Capture Moments?

“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.”

– Jon Kabat-Zinn

The morning is glorious. I’m up early, alone. As the sun rises over the quiet lake. I’ve got my legs up on the pier, balancing my notebook and coffee next to me. The sun is warms my face and the breeze blows down my neck thanks to my newly cropped off hair, just cool enough to be glad I wore my sweatshirt. Wild bunnies and chipmunks scurry in the bushes next to me, undisturbed by the water skier gliding by. The waves lap gently against the shore; paddleboarders and kayakers are my only human companions, and they appear as intoxicated by their surroundings as I am.

It honestly couldn’t get much more perfect for an introverted-nature-loving-writer.

This is what summer should be like – distractions including only a jumping fish, the glitter of the rising sun on water, and the slight smoky scent of bacon wafting from down the road.

This moment is mine – simple and free for absorbing every little bit. It didn’t cost me anything, just the price of being awake, rising early to show up and experience it.

moments on Lake Tahoe dock

My writing over the last four years has evolved into an exercise in capturing moments – the intenseness, the frustration, and the beauty of loving fiercely, thinking deeply and teaching audaciously. As simple as it sounds, it truly has been anything but. Trying to capture the intenseness of the experiences of my life, endeavoring to scribble the sights and sounds and smells to share with an  unknown audience challenges me in such an acutely intriguing way. Snatching photos of moments to enhance my words has unlocked my view of what can be contained in a frame, forcing me to stop and think and consider what is around me.

It is forcing me to pay attention.

I breathe deeply, grateful to be here today.  As I approach 50 I feel a shift in my gratitude practice – it has become a slowing, a releasing of what is unnecessary, hurtful, and holding me back. Recently, a teacher friend asked me how long I thought she’d be able to keep up her energy for teaching. As I thought about it, I realized that it isn’t the energy level that changes – it’s the level of energy I want to use in different areas of life that changes. The more mindful I become to the moments around me, the more mindful I become to how I give of my time. I’m becoming selective and selfish and miserly with my time and energy, and at this point in life, I’d rather spend two hours soaking in the morning sun on this pier, writing and sipping coffee and thinking about this huge, wide Universe and this one wild life I’ve been given than just about anything else.

And I realize I’m on summer vacation now. I fully understand the gift of having a morning on a pier, the ability to not think about students and lessons and the outside life. It’s not the vacation energy I am so infatuated with. It’s an energy balanced by the peacefulness of aging, of being young enough to still settle in on the wooden dock, feeling the warm wood under my legs. To know all I have is all I need. To trust that my kids will be OK, that my husband will be well, and that my teaching will provide me with the means to fill another area of my life that’s opening up and calling for attention.

It’s an energy pushing me to pay attention, to write just for me while hopefully offering a glimmer into some part of life that needs to open up for you, too. Maybe this moment you’re suddenly paying attention to somewhere you’re stuck, or scared, or maybe you and I can find we’re kindred spirits-another soul who finds joy and happiness in thinking deeply, loving fiercely and teaching audaciously. Someone who doesn’t give a fuck about trying to impress you or do the things women are expected to do. Someone who wants her words to match her actions, and for her children to live fully and help make the world a more awesome place.

Someone who wants her life to matter.

Toni Morrison writes, “At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough.” I think I know what I’m doing now.

It is enough to just be here on this dock, at this moment, with the breeze blowing the pages of my spiral notebook and the sun blazing in my eyes, casting shadows as I write. This moment is too blinding to photograph. It’s just me, here, paying attention and capturing its beauty to share with my kindred spirits.

What Is The Best Way To Capture Moments

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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