One of the lost arts in our time is the ability to spend a long time observing and just “being” in a place or with a person or a thing, no distractions, just watching.
As we have been spending time outside in the yard this week working intensively on chicken coop construction, I have noticed things about our back yard that I’ve never noticed before. There are plants, leaves, moss, bumps, insects, weather patterns, and tons of other things to appreciate that you don’t see until you sit and watch: with consistent attention, no agenda, no distractions, relaxed and curious observation, attention to small details, and a sense of awe and openness.
Even watching the chickens free ranging around the yard becomes fascinating. In the “old days” before channel-surfing, binge-watching, and feed-scrolling this is what people watched. This is why we crave watching things that are slow-moving and repetitive. This is where we can quench the thirst of our soul, with things that return.
There is a lesson in this for our spiritual selves: If we don’t feel that our faith and its practices have anything to offer us, then we need to really spend time with God, with salah, with the Qur’an, with dhikr, and with the deep beauty of all the aspects of our faith from its spirituality to its legal structure. It takes consistent attention, no agenda, no distractions, relaxed and curious observation, attention to small details, and a sense of awe and openness.
The longer we spend, and the more experience The better we get at observing, the more we will observe. We get better at seeing small things, unlikely things, hidden things.
We’ve been conditioned to look only at things close to us- mostly our phones, but also books, computers, and things that we hold between our hands– so we actually have to exercise our eyes and re-train ourselves to hold attention at things that are far away and to give prolonged focus at objects or places.
The same is true for our spiritual eyesight. It takes time to learn or re-learn how to focus deeply, see beyond ourselves, and develop the patience and attentiveness for noticing.
Just as in nature, when you develop your spiritual eyesight, whole worlds will suddenly appear to you, worlds that existed just outside your doorstep.
Before long, you won’t even remember what it was like to live without the knowledge of the worlds now revealed to you.
They were always there, but now you have joined them.