Show Up, Pay Attention

by Alan McAllister, CCHt PhD-phys

The first job I had out of college was in a small software development group. It was a sort of apprentice position, which meant that I handled office boy duties, while also learning about the work the group was doing. While I covered the office boy part I will admit I didn’t take it as seriously as my “studies”. Walking around Palo Alto to purchase imported coffee and the afternoon ice cream wasn’t bad, but answering the office phone was something that I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about. One day my boss called me into his office and gave a bit of a discourse on “professionalism”. He wanted me to show up for all aspects of my job and to commit to the minimal effort required to do them well.

I have always remembered this talk, or at least the basic point, which I took to mean that it was worthwhile to do what I had to do well, to show up and pay attention, not just for the things that interested me at the moment, but for whatever I was doing, especially if someone was paying me to do it. This is a matter of having respect for people I interact with, whether at work, home, or play. Perhaps even more importantly it is really a matter of self respect, being fully present as my Self in all situations. Replacing the pride of “I’m too good for this”, with the pride of doing well what needs to be done.

Showing up and paying attention may benefit others but it mainly benefits yourself. You will often learn something useful, about what you are doing or about yourself. There is always truth to be found in being present in your life, it is surprising what will turn out to be useful experience later on. I once spent time in Japan working for manufacturers of heating and air conditioning equipment, not something I expected to ever be useful. A few years later in graduate school I wound up studying the fundamental physics behind much of that industry.

Even when you are physically present, how present are you mentally, emotionally or spiritually? This is what my boss was speaking to. We often seem to show up only as much as seems “necessary” to get something done. We are really cheating ourselves, living parts of our lives half asleep, missing opportunities to explore, learn, grow. You may not always be able to choose (in the moment) what you are doing, but you can always choose how present you are, and the more present you are in this moment, the more likely you can choose the next one differently.

While my examples have been about work, this is equally true for all aspects of living. When you are fully present you can do anything with fuller satisfaction. It impacts all your relationships. The more present you are the more interesting things become, the more fully human you are with yourself and with others. This way life has a chance to give back to you. Can you complain that life doesn’t give you what you want if you aren’t present to receive it? and yet we all do this at times. Showing up and paying attention, people feel it and respond. Spirit feels it and responds. You can’t really expect to get what you want, on any level, if you aren’t engaged on that level.

Decades later I still remember that talk and when I forget I meet others who set an example that reminds me. I am still challenging myself to be more present, true to my Self, engaged with my life, not just half asleep going through the motions. It is an ongoing practice. We are amazing spiritual beings in human bodies. How do you make everything as alive, as rich, as deep as possible? How do you bring all of who you are to the table all the time? Practice this for yourself, any where, any time, why wait? If you need inspiration, ask. Listen to your heart, make room for your spirit to communicate. I.e. show up and pay attention. Life is much more fun that way.

(© 9/2011)

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