One of the biggest perks of being a storyteller is that I am schooled in my own attention. In order to write a story about a lonely squirrel, I need to pay attention not only to squirrels, but to loneliness as well. I need to focus on the sensation of loneliness and recall times when I felt lonely. And because I write stories about virtually everything, I need to pay attention to everything, whenever I encounter it. I pay attention, I recall, and then I use that information later when I write a story.
This skill is at the foundation of my wellbeing. Because I am aware of my attention, I have agency over it. I can control it. And if I find myself stuck in resentment or fear or self pity, I can choose to shift my attention toward something else like gratitude for my job, or delight in my children, or hope for the world.
Attention is a skill — and it must be practiced. Taking inventory of how I feel, what I am thinking, and where I am putting my attention is the hardest part because once I know where I am, then I can choose where I want to go. Do I want to mull over the latest news or do I want to marvel at the resilience of my sons? Do I want to be afraid of how a conversation might go or do I want to delight in the possibility of a new connection? Both are valid options — both are “reality” — but the big question, as a storyteller as well as a father and partner, is this: To what “reality” do I wish to attend?
Imagine what you can model to your children as they grow up in the 24-hour news cycle with a constant bombardment of information. You can demonstrate that you — and they — have a choice around where they place their attention and what kind of world they wish to create.
In my latest blog post, I offer suggestions to help you with developing your ability to “attend.” These practical tips might just be your next step in cultivating your own attention muscles.
May this week be rich with new worlds of possibility!
About the Author
David Sewell McCann
David Sewell McCann fell in love with spinning stories in first grade – the day a storyteller came to his class and captured his mind and imagination. He has been engaged in storytelling all of his adult life through painting, film-making, teaching and performing. Out of his experience as a Waldorf elementary class teacher and parent, he has developed a four step method of intuitive storytelling, which he now shares through workshops and through this website.