Category Archives: attention

Becoming A Connoisseur Of The Commonplace

God hides in plain sight.

And if we are not paying close attention, we miss the experience and the message.
Ever see the movie Bruce Almighty? Bruce, played by Jim Carrey, is given the chance to take over God’s job while God goes on vacation. 
Talk about a challenge.
Bruce has no idea of God’s presence in his life. He’s more concerned with landing the anchor position at his news station. His self-absorption causes him to miss God’s cues and messages. While Bruce’s life begins to unravel, there is one small constant in the movie which Bruce (and most people who watch it) miss initially — the scroungy, homeless man who quietly holds up signs about the end times. It’s not until the end of the movie when we realize that God has been the homeless man all along, hiding in plain sight. 
How many times have we missed Spirit’s cues and messages because of our lack of attention?

I remember sitting on a train headed into the city where I worked. I had been going through a particularly challenging time, not able to see my way out of or through the situation, when out of nowhere a truck came along on the highway, driving parallel with the train. On its trailer, it bore one word in bold letters: G.O.D.

What do you make of a moment like that?

I knew the letters stood for the company name, Guaranteed Overnight Delivery, but it was what I needed most to see in that moment. The truck remained with the train as we crossed the bridge until we disappeared underground into the tunnel. I didn’t know if this was some kind of cosmic joke, or something much more.

When I exited the train, I couldn’t stop thinking about that truck. I had seen them on the road many times, never paying any mind to them. They were just trucks. But as I emerged from the tunnel, there parked directly in front of me was the same G.O.D. truck that had stayed with me across the bridge. I knew in that moment that everything would be okay, and it was. And I realized that the heavens didn’t need to open nor did the seas have to part for Spirit to communicate with me. All it took was a truck. In plain sight.

That was my cue to start paying attention to small, inconspicuous, commonplace things that I normally overlooked or took for granted. I became a connoisseur of the ordinary. Through the contemplation of the things around me, I began to uncover layers of meaning. I learned that “things have their within,” as French priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin reminds us; they have their own lives, and the only way to know them is to enter into partnership with them. When we do, we find them pointing beyond themselves to the profound. Life becomes a sacred adventure, and suddenly Spirit is everywhere.


To become a connoisseur of the commonplace means to live consciously with things. Let your attention be a tool for discovery and caring to help you to honor the presence of the sacred in everyday life.

Today, celebrate something that is considered an ordinary object but holds sentimental value. Set it in a place of honor, or in a place of high visibility. Give gratitude for its use(s). Make it a conversation piece with your family or friends and see where the conversation leads.

I used to keep a brick on my desk in my classroom. It served a practical purpose as a paperweight, but it held sentimental value for me.

My students often questioned, why the brick? Why not a traditional, more “normal” paperweight? I told them it was a gift.

“A brick? Who gives someone a brick? It’s just a brick,” I’d hear them say.

“It’s more than just a brick,” I’d say. “It carries its own story. It’s just a matter of listening to it and hearing what it has to say.”

Quizzical looks.

“It comes from a building that was scheduled for demolition. That building was the hospital in which I was born. My father made a special trip that day to retrieve this little piece of history. It represents when I came into the world and when he became a father.”


And then the brick took on a life of its own, and my students couldn’t wait to get to know it.

Each day, look for the extraordinary in the ordinary, the not-so-common in the common, and take time out to celebrate the little things in life.

Click here to read the intro to this series. This link will also bring you to Day 1.

Attention Deficit or Dividend?

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

Well, it is.

Every day is new day to start again, no matter what happened in the past. Leave yesterday behind. Think not of the future. Just concentrate on the present moment.

To grow spiritually requires making conscious choices on our parts. This means we must be open, receptive, and totally present in the moment.

It means we must pay attention.

In today’s busy world, many people suffer an attention deficit. They lack focus, and they miss critical elements of the spiritual life. They miss opportunities for gratitude. They miss moments of grace. They miss the signs (or misread them) that point to the presence of the Sacred.

Through this series, you will find that Spirit expresses itself in diverse ways. It may be gradual or sudden, or it may take an on-again, off-again approach. It could be a whisper or a shout, or it could be a gentle, undefinable, unexplainable, undeniable tug on the heart.

Spirit will come to us through various mediums — people, places, things, animals, nature, events, intuition and more. Spirit will show in the form of our day or night dreams and magical synchronicities. But it may also come in the form of emotional crisis, illness, loss, or a near-death experience. No matter what happens in our lives, we discover that there are spiritual dimensions to them, if we choose to listen to and to learn from the experiences.

As our awareness grows, we come to understand that there is a natural course that this awareness follows. We can’t rush it. We can’t ignore it. We can’t get in the way of it. We do this by having faith, not necessarily in any particular religion, but in the counsel of Spirit.

Our job is to look long and steadily at things because they will speak to us and reveal themselves. Spirit is in the details. Paying attention requires discipline and practice. And with discipline and practice, we begin to sense the inner, spiritual essence of all people and things. 

Through regular spiritual practices, our intuition grows as we get in touch with our Voice of Knowing. It speaks in a whisper, but it speaks volumes. Learn to listen to it and trust it. When we do, we begin to value our insights, especially in dealing with life’s challenges.

As we continue in our growth, we find ourselves expressing a higher frequency of consciousness, one that leads to a state of harmony and balance.  When we begin discovering that the whole world is charged with sacred meaning, we find ourselves being born into a whole new life. The ordinary transforms into the extraordinary because of our attention to detail, and we reap the dividends as a result.


Beginning today, practice being mindful of everything around you and inside of you. Attention can be practiced anytime, anywhere.

One of the best ways to expand our attention’s capacity is to study one particular object or person near you. You don’t have to write well to do this exercise. Just observe. Concentrate on recording vivid details. Examine the object/person as if meeting for the first time. Describe specific perceptions. Record any questions that begin to surface. Do this over a period of a few days to a week with other objects or people and see what kinds of connections you begin to make. 

What colors and how many variations of those colors do you see?
What else do you see? Look closely.
I once had an art class in which the professor trained us to look for the colors within one color. We observed cumulus clouds until the colors presented themselves in various tones and shades that lightened or darkened whenever the sun emerged from or hid behind them. 

Each cloud had it’s own personality, shifting and reshaping itself according to the wind patterns, and many of us found ourselves identifying with particular clouds. We asked questions of them. We related to their changes. We connected. And then the clouds weren’t clouds anymore; they were us, and we were them, all because we paid attention.

Related article(s):

Read 31 Days Of Spiritual Growth for the introduction to this series and to get the links to all 31 posts.