Attentive Spirit

To move slowly and deliberately through the world, attending to one thing at a time, strikes us as radically subversive, even un-American. We cringe from the idea of relinquishing, in any moment, all but one of the infinite possibilities offered us by our culture. Plagued by a highly diffused attention, we give ourselves to everything lightly. That is our poverty. In saying yes to everything, we attend to nothing. One only can love what one stops to observe. ‘Nothing is more essential to prayer,’ said Evagrius, ‘than attentiveness.’
— Belden C. Lane
Photo Credit: Stolen from the inimitable Edgar Soto

Photo Credit: Stolen from the inimitable Edgar Soto

In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, the apostle writes, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God…” In our frenzied lives, littered with to-do lists, 5-year plans, societal explanations, dream boards, and constantly updated social media snapshots of our existence, how often do we have an opportunity to offer that which Evagrius and Belden Lane reminds us is essential to prayer: “attentiveness”?

For Christians, the Season of Lent has just begun. It is a time to reflect on Jesus 40 days of fasting in the wilderness and to prepare for the approaching Passion and Easter. Typically, the season is associated with some sort of personal fast whether from certain foods or behaviors. This tradition is not unique to Christianity. Throughout history fasting and asceticism in preparation for some major event has been commonplace. In Islam it can be seen in the holy month of Ramadan and in Judaism it is demonstrated during Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement. These traditions recenter the spiritual life and call us back to attentiveness - remind us of how and why we pray.

In Belden Lane’s work, the Solace of Fierce Landscapes, the theologian states, “Our conditioning as members of a consumer society prevents us from abandoning hope that, with sufficient planning, we might yet be able to see and do everything.” We want desperately for our lives to be full and fulfilling! When do we take the time to stop, consider, engage, and rejoice at the fullness and fulfillment?

Church of all Wanderers is a space for this type of pause and practice. It’s an opportunity to slow down and breathe deeply. It’s a chance to wander with aim and attentiveness.

Our lives won’t get less busy or frenzied. But, perhaps momentarily, we can embrace the calm we see in the grass and the trees and the life in the wild and offer our own prayer of joy and thanks. In so doing, we can remind ourselves of what the Divine wants for our lives and set us on a course to make our lives a prayer of peace and wholeness for ourselves and for the world.

Payton Hoegh

Payton Hoegh