Be Awakened, Be Aware, Be Attentive BABABA

My 2 year old granddaughter, Gloria, calls her older sister “ Baba”.  I’ve often wondered how she got “Baba” out of Amelia.  It’s may be the early language sound attempt of a little one.  However, Baba in Hindi (primary language in India) means sibling. Interesting.   And it also is the endearing name that’s used for one’s guru (teacher) in India.  The meaning that’s suggested for “Baba” at least in English is “Be Aware, Be Awakened – BABA”.  Could my Glo be a channel for ageless wisdom? (As a mother and grandmother, I’ve often thought that of my children and grandchildren!)  Whatever has been the source of her unusual naming, I’d like to suggest BABA as a guide for experiencing the remainder of the summer season and the transition into the fall with all its changes and activities.  In fact, I’m going to add a third BA – Be Attentive.  I think these are worthy guides for conscious living and loving.

Be Aware: The routines of everyday life can take on a mesmerizing quality.  Doing basically the same things day to day has our focus become mundane and we don’t necessarily see the broader world.  And there is so much more of which to be aware.  Increasing awareness expands and enriches our life when we put our attention on what nourishes us and leads to an appreciative attitude.  The natural world is a good example:  the tiny flowers that are blooming in this later summer season, the birds that will soon start migrating through on their way to their winter homes, how the trees are preparing to drop their leaves, the dying process of the plant life – all of this are rich in life process lessons.  Our awareness of the people around us can also become mundane and contracted.  For example, one of my bank tellers,  while I don’t know her personally, I am aware that she is pregnant and this morning I noticed more changes in her face that come in late stage pregnancy.  This morning, rather than my previous “Hello, how are you?” attitude I tuned in and felt my heart open to her.  I recalled my own pregnancy experience and felt connected to her.  Kind awareness has us be more acutely attentive to others, our life, and the world.  It’s the first step in choosing actions that support how we want to be in our life, and what we want to see as our world.

Be Awakened: Time passing is like the air we breathe.  We don’t necessarily notice it because we’re in the middle of the continuity of it.   And yet, it is important to notice time as it calls us to understand we’re here for a limited period.  So the choices we make in how we live, how we love, what we create is what makes up our life experience.  A Zen saying captures this perfectly, “Great  is the matter of birth and death.  All is impermanent, quickly passing.  Awake, awake, don’t waste this life.”

Be Attentive: Guidance about attention abounds from a variety of sources.  From the Vedic tradition of India, attention is viewed as central to the spiritual life.  “You are where your attention takes you.  In fact, you are your attention.  If your attention is fragmented, you are fragmented.  When your attention is in the past, you are in the past. When you are in the present moment, you are in the presence of God and God is present in you.”  My friend and teacher, Katie Hendricks has said that attention is the currency of all relationship.  I observe the truth of this every day in my life.  The quality of the attention that I give those close to me makes a difference in the immediate and overall experience of my relationships.  If I’m distracted with my grandchildren when they are needing or asking for my attention, they let me know about in some way immediately.   How I attend to my relationships with my time, attitude, and perspective creates the quality of those relationships.  There is nothing more important to me than that the people around me experience my love and acceptance and so make sure that my actions are consistent with that intention.  When I’m off base, I feel it and can correct it. And lastly, current neuroscience research on attention training (meditation) clearly indicates that frequently attention practice brings positive changes to the brain, assists in regulating emotion and develops new neuropathways that promote sound mental health.

What in your life needs awareness?  What wants to be awakened in you?  How can you give kind attention today?    May all be well and may you live with ease.

About the author

Suzanne Kilkus

Suzanne Kilkus is a Soto Zen meditation practitioner and teacher and has practiced as a therapist and counselor for over three decades. She is dedicated to assisting people in expanding their capacity for giving and receiving love, and for recognizing and expressing their basic goodness in everyday life. Her path to live with wholehearted compassion and care is an invitation to everyone. She is a teacher with Open Door Zen Community in Madison, WI.