attention is the beginning of devotion


Yesterday morning, I spoke at a student body assembly at a local private, all-girls school here in town.  It was tons of fun:  the girls were bright and attentive and funny and intelligent, and everything you would hope to witness in young people on the cusp of taking on the world.  We talked privilege, and leadership, and compassion, and at the end of my talk there was a question-and-answer session.  A young woman stepped up to the mic and asked, "When did you learn about self-compassion?  Because I'm all about self-compassion -- I took a class in it last year -- but I was wondering how you got to be so passionate about it?"

(Okay, first of all, let's stop and acknowledge that this young sister took a class in self-compassion -- how cool is that?  Would that all schools taught self-compassion ...)

I sort of hemmed and hawed and gave a vague answer that I didn't really think about self-compassion until I was well into adulthood (which is true), and talked about how lucky she was to have the opportunity to take classes on self-compassion at such a young age.  But her question stuck with me for the day, and I think I have a more accurate answer for her.

The truth is that I started learning about self-compassion and self-care when I first got my camera, at about age 27.  And of course, it was sort of by accident:  I realized that when I was stressed, or tired, or stuck, or even angry, nothing calmed me, nothing made me slow down my breathing more than grabbing my camera and focusing on something beautiful, or even something peaceful.  For this reason, I shoot every day.  Every single day.

Later, I realized I got a similar feeling journaling:  just doodling, or copying a quotation that inspired me.  And yes, I'm back to journaling every single day.

Last week, I caught a snippet an NPR piece about the poet Mary Oliver, and the woman who was an expert on her work said that Mary Oliver believes that "attention is the beginning of devotion."  She was describing how Mary Oliver has a deep faith, and that her poems, often about the tiniest details in nature, are part of her devotional practice.  

There is something about this that rings true for me, especially when it comes to photography and journaling.  In so many ways, it's so much about paying attention.  And it's absolutely about self-care and self compassion.

Also last week, I shared a post on Instagram about a practice I did many years ago called "Love Thursday" -- where I invited people to share an image of love on their blogs.  Folks loved the idea, and so now we're re-launching it on Instagram:  if you'd like to participate, simply share your image representing love, or a story about love and tag it #lovethursday -- I'll be sure to stop by with a double-tap heart.

Think of it as a weekly attention/devotion practice of love.


Soundtrack:  World looking in by Morcheeba