While we are confined to books, though the most select and classic, and read only particular written languages, which are themselves but dialects and provincial, we are in danger of forgetting the language which all things and events speak without metaphor, which alone is copious and standard. . . . No method nor discipline can supersede the necessity of being forever on the alert.
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Pay attention. Be, as Thoreau reminds us, forever on the alert. Do not see the objects that surround you – furniture, dishes, books – as the objects that you look at everyday, because then you will not see them at all. See even the most ordinary object as something that is new, something that has been invented just in this very moment. Look at every object as through it has something to teach you, because it probably does.
Pay attention. Even this day, which seems so ordinary, just like any other day, may be the day that you have been waiting for all your life. Today may be the day that changes your life forever. But if you do not pay attention, you will miss it, and it will be gone forever.
Pay attention. Don’t close yourself off. Whether you are reading or watching TV or listening to music or washing dishes or talking with a close friend or driving to work or walking alone in the forest, pay attention.
Pay attention to your own life, to your own dreams, thoughts, hopes, and fears. This simple practice is the beginning of everything.
An ancient Chinese master was asked for a teaching by one of his students. The master mixed some ink and readied his brush and paper. He sat in the presence of the blank sheet, then in a single breath executed the character for attention. He looked at it briefly and gave it to his student. “It’s beautiful! But what does it mean?” said the student. The master took up his brush, executed the same character again, and presented it to the student. “Yes, yes, I understand,” asked the student, “but what does it mean?” The master shouted, “Attention means ATTENTION!”
— John Daido Loori, The Zen of Creativity