Pay attention

Beyond the Veil

The old woman had taken to her bed. She was dying in this familiar place where all her children had been born. Now they gathered by her side, quiet and attentive. She was tired; each slow breath was a labor. Soon she would be gone.

Her skin was pale and wrinkled by time, her lips were dry, and her hair was gray and thin, but as she lay with her eyes closed facing her death she radiated a powerful grace and beauty. Somehow in this moment she was surely as beautiful as any day she was all made up, decked in her finest jewels, dressed to the nines for a night on the town.

Her oldest daughter stroked her hair and softly whispered to her that it was ok to go. The old woman’s brow furrowed. Her mouth opened slightly. She wanted to speak.

“What is it, mom? Do you want to say something?” said her daughter.

Her lips slowly puckered and then separated again. These would be the last words she would speak to her family before she died. They sensed it, and all leaned in with open and heavy hearts. “P-p….,” she said before exhaling fully, and breathing hard to catch her breath.

“Yes, mom?”

After a few breaths, she tried again.


“Pay? What is it, mom? Everything is ok. Everything is taken care of. There’s no need to worry.”

“No” she said, breathing heavily, and starting again, giving these last two words, two words offered as a life prescription to her family, advice which would be remembered by them as sage instruction from the matriarch they loved so dearly,

“Pay attention.”

Pay Attention.

I think it’s such foundational advice on which to build your whole life that I make the effort to frame it in the archetypal scene above.

We exist in sea of information. We always have…

Paying attention means letting the world present itself to you. It takes courage sometimes to be open to it. There is layer upon layer of information. A particular orientation is needed to see more than what we expect to see.  It takes trust and humility to truly honor paying attention to “the other” around us.

Basic level — Physical Body

Paying attention to the world keeps you safe. That corner of the table, that little dip in the sidewalk: you have to see them to navigate them safely.

Driving a car shows how important it is to pay attention on the basic level. The average car weighs two tons. It’s lifesaving for the person behind the wheel and everyone in their vicinity to be on point.

Interpersonal Level — Soul experiences

A basic fact about relationships: only those who pay attention, excel.

Paying attention is what makes a good listener and a good colleague. We call it attention to detail in the workplace, and it’s very valuable.

Being a good friend or partner is made possible only by paying attention. How can you be caring and considerate without paying attention to what your partner needs? Love is impossible without attention.

Advanced level — Spiritual Insight

Insight and intuition are critical components of being a whole human. The paying  attention on this level goes beyond the the cues from other people or from the physical position of things in space. This involves orienting artistically with the world. Paying attention is central to the artistic process.

In training intuition we also work with paying attention to the senses, just in a different way. The human body provides an amazing means for transportation and is a miraculous life and energy center, but with intuition we take the body’s ability to be used as a fine antenna to the next level. It’s all about more consciousness and awareness.

Being around a dying loved one can give the impression that the veil to an unseen world is thinned. With more consciousness (paying attention) we replicate this same orientation.


A place to start is to realize a few things about the senses. They are active in hidden ways. Take this from Scientific American a number of years ago:

Hidden in a man’s smell are clues about his major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes, which play an important role in immune system surveillance. Studies suggest that females prefer the scent of males whose MHC genes differ from their own… children are born with more varied MHC profiles and thus more robust immune systems.

Now we can be warned that the construction of Virtual Reality is only roughly dialed in to this complexity. VR is orienting itself in the grossest of ways as it is making steps to add smell to its offerings, as discussed here in Wired Magazine:

If virtual reality wants to deliver on its potential, it needs to wake up and smell its nauseating scentlessness.

Keeping connected to the vastness of our existence is critical. We need to consider how we choose to spend our time and efforts. What world do we want to live in? In a way, we choose this every day.


I base my philosophy and approach to care on the understanding that the world and human body are profoundly and majestically wise and connected into a cosmic sytem of working. It’s goes a long way to learn to position yourself in your senses in a way that honors the wonderful mandate described above, to pay attention. Here are a some simple suggestions:

  1. Try to let yourself be amazed by what you observe. Awe opens up worlds.
  2. Practice seeing, hearing, and smelling the world with curiosity.
  3. Uncloud your body: learn to live cleanly. Be mindful of  toxins. Remember: you have to go against the grain to be healthy.
  4. Trust that complex answers can come from your observation. Learning to open to the environment is the key.