All I have

Valentine, Alex



AFWA Essay Submission All I Have Pay attention. Parents and teachers say those words over and over, and it is so easy not to understand what they mean; to be annoyed by then; to reject them. They are, unfortunately, two of the most important words that you will ever hear when you are young, if not the most important. They do not mean ,iobeyn. If whoever says them includes that in their tone, then thay also misunderstand what it means to pay attention. And they suffer for it. Knowing that, rather than being annoyed, have compassion for the person who is trapped in an unsatisfactory life of their own making. That man yelling, "Bay attention!" is in pain; pain that he does not even realize, or realize that ne is radiating towards others, ruining all that he tries to accomplish. Paying attention is to calmly see what is true, without judgment or passion. It is distinguishing between what you imagine or feel or want to be happening, and what is really happening. It strips away illusion and lays facts bare. It makes life smaller, but infinitely more easy to manage. So, why doesn’t everyone do this? Why didn't I do this? Why am I sitting in prison serving a term of Life w/o Parole for a double murder? The answer is disgustingly simple — I just didn’t think to, and neither do most people. I ignored, resisted, and rejected those two simple words. And, I made a habit of doing so. I unwittingly practiced 'not paying attention1 every day. I missed my life, and I missed every sign of the collossal train wreck I headed straight into obliviously. 1 lost a wife (divorced), family, many friends, and a promising future. Years later, I stumbled over the idea of paying attention in the correct manner. In short order, I earned a college degree, stopped using drugs, became a published Essay - 2 novelist, and re-established connections to family mernebers and friends whom I had thoguht irrevokably lost. It was no grand, imagined, passionate plan for success — no set of “programs'* — I simply paid attention to the small details and opportunities around me, and acted appropriately towards those details. Success continues to result. Faying attention is such a simple thing; children learn it, practice it, and then lead happy lives as a certain consequence. Of course bad things happen, but they can never overwhelm; never not be dealt with, or require more effort than to sweep a few leaves from the path. Those who pay mindful attention lead fearless lives and act with compassion; they can't not. After 35 years of bad habits and poor attention, with only a few years of meager practice, my experience of life has become absurdly better. My obliviousness created the hurdles I am now overcoming, and the method to overcome than could have been learned at any time prior. I did not learn from the life I lived. I learned to pay mindful attention in spite of it; an idiotic life is in no way requisite to learn this skill. There was absolutely nothing special about me, and other than doing this one simple thing, there is not now either. The sooner a person starts practicing this skill, the better their life and the lives of the people around them will be. This is all I have; all 1 can offer, and all that 1 know that is worth passing on to another person. Paying mindful attention is the doorway to.a life of fearless wonder. Enjoy yours. Attached Sheet Biographical and other information for APWA Essay: Alex Valentine is also the author of Lost Angels, a ^street** novel set in East L.A. (available on Amazon), and of its forthcoming sequel, Handmaiden of the Nameless. These are being publised by The Cell Block - facebook/ & They are the NEW standard! Alex Valentine also plays both piano and guitar. He has also founded the Stone Lotus Sangha, a Buddhist meditation group that meets weekly in the prison Chapel. He facilitates an "emotional literacy" group based on the book, Houses of Healing, put out by The Lionheart Foundation. Both groups are small, but growing.

Author: Valentine, Alex

Author Location: California

Date: October 22, 2016

Genre: Essay

Extent: 3 pages

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