Part of the Communion in Times of Coronavirus series of gentle reflectionsInderjit Bhogal, 2020
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We are all asked to “stay alert”.
Staying alert requires paying attention.
This is what all good teachers call for.
Pay attention, and this is a pre-requisite to staying alert, and living to your full potential.
In our meditations I began with attention to breathing, and to stillness. These precede attention.
Good attention flows from breathing well and stillness, and will help to provide the clear focus of attention.
We all have many distractions such as unsolicited apps, messages, and so on.
Attention flows from breathing and stillness, being in the present moment, being aware of what or who is there, considering information, reflecting, and resolving to do something as a result.
This is really what research means.
Pay attention, observe, collect data, reflect on it with care, till you have a revelation, your data offers new illumination, new information.
If you are like me you will have had moments when something or someone makes you pause, stop in your tracks, and pay attention in this way.
For example, you pass something regularly, and one day this something, it may be a tree or view for example, catches your breath and stops you. You become present in that moment and place, you really consider the information, you reflect, and you take action, even if it to gasp “wow” in a moment of revelation.
During this time of coronavirus, with less air pollution, there have been some remarkable photos of mountain ranges from massive distance on facebook and twitter.
There was a photo of Mount Kenya that someone took from Nairobi City which is 85 miles away.
Many people living in Nairobi responded that the photo is a fake, you surely cannot see Mount Kenya from Nairobi!
But the photo is a fact.
What is more, that view is actually visible from Nairobi most days, but most people don’t see it.
The man who took the photo says, “the hustle of Nairobi prevents people from looking up. The slowing down is not there”. He said that maybe, the Covid-19 virus has slowed people down, and with less air pollution helped people to see more.
As I said, we can all walk past things many times and miss them.
But there is a moment in which we become aware of something for the first time, and think, I pass this regularly yet I have never been aware of it before.
There is a story in the Bible of Moses who was minding his sheep in a field when suddenly he saw a bush that seemed to be aflame. It made him stop, and turn his attention, and look with more care (Exodus 3:1-12).
When Moses saw the bush that seemed to be aflame, he said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight…” (Exodus 3:3). As he paid attention here, he felt he heard the voice of God drawing his attention to brutality and suffering, and the experience changed his life.
He became the leader he was.
Young Mary had a moment when she believed an Angel was speaking to her. In the Church calendar this moment is called the “annunciation”. As she paid attention in this special moment, she heard the voice of God, and “pondered” on what she heard (Luke 1:26-31).
She became the mother of Jesus.
Today is 24th May. It is a special day in Methodist Churches.
24 May 1738 is regarded as the day John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, had a special experience.
At a meeting in Aldersgate Street in London, he was listening to a reflection on the Letter to Romans. Then, he writes in his diary, “About a quarter before nine…I felt my heart strangely warmed”. He felt loved by God.
He became the leader of a movement called Methodism.
Six hundred years ago there lived in Norwich a young woman called Julian. Aged about 30 she became seriously ill. At the end of her illness she began having visions., and then spent around 20 years living in a small room and writing her visions which she called Divine Revelations, a book worth reading. Her most famous revelation arises from just observing a hazelnut.
Reflecting on a hazelnut in her hand she writes that it revealed three things to her. “The first is that God made it. The second, that God loves it. The third, that God keeps it.” This simple observation gave her peace, that she can rest in God the Creator, the Keeper, and the Lover.
The important thing about these special moments is that they happen in the everyday, ordinary circumstances which command attention and become sacred moments and places and people.
Attention can give you rest, and make you more capable and give you more direction for life.
It said to Moses you are more than a shepherd, and to Mary, you are a person of potential beyond your imagination, to Wesley you an assurance of love, to Julian confidence in God.
Attention increases your awareness, and makes you more mindful of yourself and others. It literally opens your eyes and ears and heart and soul. It is an essential quality in leadership.
This is what faith and spirituality is.
Seeing and hearing God in ordinary everyday life, and hearing the voice of God calling you to be the immense and immeasurable person you are capable of being.
Be alert, but more than this, pay attention.
24 May 2020, John Wesley Day