Pay Attention and Engage — That’s Life Going By

By Gina Barreca
The Hartford Courant.

I’m pretty much done with mindfulness. I’m just going to start paying attention.

Detachment is now as overrated as quinoa and just about as inspiring. Mindfulness has become, at least for the non-practicing Buddhists among us, an often-convenient excuse for shirking the hard work of making decisions and shrugging off life‘s emotional bill.

As I understand it, mindfulness is the cultivation of an evenly hovering experience of present awareness, which means being open and receptive to everything without passing judgment or reacting reflexively.

Personally, I stopped paying attention to that definition after the ninth word.

And yet I’m somebody who’s pretty good at paying attention.

I cut my teeth on the phrase “Pay attention, kid, and you just might learn something” because the person saying it was usually right: I learned something by watching or listening and was then able to imitate or avoid whatever they were doing.

You paid attention to your grandmother in the kitchen and learned to make spittini so perfect you still never order them even in a five-star restaurant because the ones you make at home are better.

You paid attention when the cousin who wore too much eye-liner and thought girls should let boys win got married in a tent-dress, then had a baby seven months later. You decided to put your hand up in class and shout out the right answers even if the teacher, who also thought girls should let boys win, wouldn’t call on you.

You learned to make decisions, judgments and choices. You joined the world’s conversation, which meant being informed and speaking out.

You learned to take sides, even when you could see the valid points made by the opposition. You developed opinions and embraced beliefs because you discovered that news, history and institutions, formed by those in power, shaped both culture and environment and did not merely reflect them.

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