On paying attention to your life

I’m preparing to teach a writing/blogging workshop to a handful of high school students this weekend, so I’m laying out the agenda of what I want to work on. My mission is to show them, over the course of a few hours, how writing can (dum-dum-duuuum) change your life (or, at least, how it’s changed mine) and how they can adopt some mindful writing practices in their lives.

I’m almost there. I have some pretty cool little exercises and meditations and stories to share. But I wanted to share with you the central message I’m going to attempt to get across to these kids who are about to leave the home nest and fly out into the world...

The greatest gift writing has given me is the gift of paying attention to my life.

These kids’ heads are so bloated at this stage. Their mental plate has been overloaded with assignments, tests, standardized this-and-that, practice drills, scrimmages, home games, away games, finding their clique, sexual attraction/non-attraction, parental struggles, etc — all based around other people’s expectations of them. How much time have they taken for themselves to sit down and consciously take notice of their quickly-passing life?

I want to convey to them that this is it — as far as we know, we have one shot at this thing called human existence. But even though we look out on our world every moment of every day, we can so easily miss so much of it.

I don’t want them to miss it. I want them to take a firm hold of that steering wheel of their consciousness and guide it in a thoughtful, interesting, fulfilling direction.

I want them to find allies in words — these beautiful, perfect symbols of meaning — and to play with them. To color their world with them. And to edit the content of their lives until they find the right words. Not words like, they told me to, or, will this be on the test? But, hmmmmm — this looks interesting, and what happens when I look at it this way?

Until we pay attention to ourselves, we’re at the behest of the outside world.

But when we take notice of our lives, we can consciously work to mold them, enjoy them, ignore them, or whatever best serves us.

Writing gives us the gift of noticing our lives. Noticing our lives gives us the gift of conscious choice. Conscious choice gives us the gift of infinite possibilities.

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