[blockquote align=”none” cite=”Neil Young”]When the punk thing came along and I heard my friends saying, “I hate these people with the pins in their ears,” I said, “Thank God, something got their attention.”[/blockquote]

Originally published October 11, 2007 

We live in a culture gone mad with “multi-tasking”. Some say we live in an ADD-HD world. And the cost to our relationships, our energy, our focus and our ability to squeeze the juice from each moment in life is high.

I confess I’m guilty too. Even as I write this blog, I’m listening to Neil Young singing “Helpless” in his uniquely plaintive style. OK. I’ve turned Neil off for now.

I believe most of us crave the undivided attention of someone we care about. Attention that is completely focused on us with no distractions. No TV, no laptop, no iPad. No texting, no tweeting. No wandering thoughts replaying what we said this morning or worrying about what we need to do before the end of the day or trying to decide what’s for dinner.

Just the two of us. You completely present, wide awake, giving your attention to me. Me completely present, wide awake, giving my attention to you. Attention infused with compassion, alive with good humor, animated by the mere fact that we’re together. Attention that comes with no judgment about good or bad, right or wrong, agreement or disagreement. Both of us mindful of these precious moments together.

So how do we stop being helplessly busy and start smelling the roses?

It takes practice. Practice in being mindful. Practice in turning off the noise, the distractions, and paying attention to what is really most important right in front of us in each moment. The good news is that you can practice wherever you are, at any time. No special training or equipment required.

First, just be yourself. Let go of thinking about who’s watching and what they think. Just concentrate on where you are, who you are with, and what you are doing. Let everything else just go out of your head.

Second, notice the small things. Start with your breath. Are you breathing deeply, into your belly as Nature intended? Take a big breath now. Exhale fully. Take another one and notice the anxiety disappear. Feel the sense of relaxation and sense of wellbeing that comes with just paying attention to your breathing. Really taste your food as you eat. Pay full attention to your surroundings as you move through your day. Resolve to notice things you have never seen before.

Third, really listen to the person(s) you are with. Don’t just take turns talking. Avoid judging what they are saying. Stop looking for an opening for your response. Listen to their mood. Watch them closely. What are they saying with their eyes, with the look on their face, with their posture? Are they lit up? Are they carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders? See them as though you never saw them before. You’ll be amazed at what you have missed up until now. And you’ll be surprised at how interesting they have suddenly become.

Lastly, live in the moment. As John Lennon once wrote, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” Don’t let the days slip by while you replay the past and worry about the future. Let others know what you are discovering. Invite your loved ones to live each moment with you.

I’m going to stop writing now and return to Neil Young. And really listen to him this time.