How You Stand Here Matters

I’ve shared it recently, but I must share it again:  a poem by William Stafford, called Being A Person. 

I’ll share a few more thoughts afterwards, too, but first, the poem.

(Oh – and read it slowly, out loud.  It’s the best that way 🙂

Be a person here. Stand by the river, invoke

the owls. Invoke winter, then spring.

Let any season that wants to come here make its own

call. After that sound goes away, wait.

jordan whitt

photo: jordan whitt


A slow bubble rises through the earth

and begins to include sky, stars, all space,

even the outracing, expanding thought.

Come back and hear the little sound again.

photo: Markus Spiske

photo: Markus Spiske


Suddenly this dream you are having matches

everyone’s dream, and the result is the world.

If a different call came there wouldn’t be any

world, or you, or the river, or the owls calling.

photo: Jay Mantri

photo: Jay Mantri


How you stand here is important. How you

listen for the next things to happen.

How you breathe.

I love how Stafford ends this poem. It evokes the realization that how I am in the world matters;  that how I breathe even makes a difference. Imagine that! How I breathe matters…

This poem also evokes for me an idea I’ve been a bit obsessed with lately.

It’s something we all possess, yet rarely think about.

It’s extremely simple, yet supremely influential.

It’s a capacity that has the power to shape our existence, even if (especially if?) we’re not aware of how we’re using it.

So, what is it?

Your Attention Please

Attention – your attention, my attention – this nice, little, unassuming faculty we all possess, is one of our greatest tools of creation. It’s kind of like an awesome superpower we all have, but have all forgotten that we have.

Attention is creative, alive and ever-unfolding. In fact, when we place it on something, that thing tends to grow.

For instance:

When I place my attention on what I’m grateful for, gratitude grows in me.

When I place my attention on what I’m afraid of, fear grows in me.

When I place my attention on what I’m worried about, worry and doubt grow in me.

When I place my attention on love, loving grows in me.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “We become what we think about all day long.”

How You Stand Here is Important

In addition to what we’re placing our attention on, how we offer our attention is also important.

For example, we can impatiently rush past the things around us each day, OR we can move with more reverence, slowly noticing the beautiful details in each thing.

We can approach situations with our minds, analyzing, calculating, trying to figure everything out, OR we can offer our full-bodied presence to each thing and see what intelligence arises that way.

We can enter a room with a sense of boredom and expectancy, OR we can cultivate awe about the simple fact that we can breathe, that there’s a sun in the sky that makes things grow, and that we have hot water that comes right out of pipes and into our homes (miracle of miracles!).

Looks Do Matter

Finally, consider the wild possibility that how you look at each thing (object, person, tree, situation, etc) may actually be creating that thing in some way. Consider that how you offer your attention may, in fact, alter the very thing that you’re offering it to!

Science may prove otherwise, but I have a feeling that how we view a thing actually does matter.

And anyway, just think…. what kind of world might we create if we knew that how we offer our attention is a life-giving, creative act in progress?

“How you stand here is important…

How you listen for the next things to happen…

How you breathe.”

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