The Buddhists tell us that ‘being born as a human is highly unusual.’ It is, they say, a tremendous privilege and a most precious gift, this human life. One of the reasons it is so precious is that within all of us lies the potential for Buddhahood – or enlightenment. That is, the unobscured awareness of the true nature of this reality and this life.

Dharma, or the Buddhist path is a practice of removing the obstacles that cloud our awareness of this true nature. Can we find this path, walk this path – if we are not Buddhist or practitioners of any particular spiritual system?

Yes, it is my understanding and belief that we can find our own Dharma, walk our own path to enlightenment – which means freedom from suffering. And the way to begin is simply to pay attention!


Attention – to what? To life. It sounds so simple, and of course we know it is not. It requires time and self-discipline. But time is happening anyway, so we might as well do something positive with it. Our modern life is filled with so many distractions, so much activity, confusion, information. Most of the time our minds are filled with chatter and noise. Many of us are aware of the value and importance of meditation, yet how often do we begin the practice, only to let it slip sooner rather than later. Paying attention is simpler! You can do it anywhere, anytime.  I have noticed that so many people do not look around them. I was recently on a yacht in a beautiful part of the world – a new country in fact. Everything was fresh and new. Simply sitting on deck, feeling the gentle motion of the boat, the warm tropical air, was blissful. The sky was clear, the scenery interesting – other yachts around us, activity on the shore. Yet I observed that my travelling companion spent a good deal of time looking downwards, at her feet, at the cockpit floor, rather than outward. I have observed this before, when bush walking – with friends. I am continually looking at the trees, the birds, smelling the perfume of the wet bush. My friends are more often than not looking at the ground, at where their next step is going. Possibly I run the risk of taking a misstep. So far I haven’t. There is a sense I get, from my companions, of being preoccupied with the thoughts in their head. They are oblivious to the everyday beauty around them. They are doing the opposite of paying attention.

Why is this so important? It is important because only when we still our thoughts can we be fully present. And only when we are fully present can we experience the power of this moment. And only when we experience the power of this moment can we fully experience this precious life. Everything else is mental noise and distracts us from feeling our bodies – these portals to the timeless dimension and allow the spaciousness within that alone gives us peace. When we are fully present there is a calmness – which feels like a great relief. When we are paying attention in the present moment, our minds must be here too. They cannot run off into the past or future.

It is only when we are in this place that we can truly feel gratitude.

If we are in nature, a beautiful place and we are paying attention it is easy to bring up the feeling of gratitude. We can train ourselves to do it in an instant. Feeling gratitude naturally induces a feeling of contentment and wellbeing.   If we are not in a beautiful place, if we are in a humdrum place, at our desk perhaps, this awareness of the present moment (attention), ordinary as it may be, offers us spaciousness. Inner spaciousness is the place from which we can create whatever thoughts and emotions we choose. We can work more creatively, more powerfully. And we can remind ourselves to feel gratitude from this place. The key is to pay attention, to be present. Breathe out that negative thought and take a look around you. Let go of every thought and its concomitant emotion that is not gratitude and feel simply spacious and aware. As we train ourselves to be here and now, to continually emit feelings of gratefulness – for where we are, for our health and wellbeing, for anything we can think of – we transform our lives. Try it and you will see it is true!

When gratitude is our attitude, amazing things happen. Situations that first appear tragic, shocking, disturbing, worrying, begin to lose their sting. If we can find something in these circumstances to be grateful for – the universe conspires to soothe our spirits as well as the events that are troubling us.

When we feel gratitude for the good and beautiful things in our lives, it delivers to us more of the same.

We know that this is a mental universe, that it is a mind creation. When we discipline our own minds to be present, to feel gratitude for this precious human life, we really begin to live in the flow that is the true nature of this reality. The reality is, we live within a never-ending flow of phenomena that arise, ebb and flow according to causes and conditions – all is interdependent. Everything is transient….it comes and goes. It is a dynamic stream of happenings originating at the level of mind. The world mind, and our own.

When we pay attention to this fragment of time, we invite timelessness. Timelessness frees us from the suffering of life. We become aware of time as a stream, a rising and falling of events – some of them welcome, some not – but all, constantly changing. As we remind ourselves to feel gratitude in each moment – even for something as simple and wonderful as breathing in and breathing out – we know we are impacting the trajectory of our karma. The past cannot be undone. But we are creating the upcoming events in the flow in this very minute. Mindfulness. Patience – with self. Compassion – for self and others. Attention. And above all, gratitude.

As Bill Hicks said, life is a ride. And a mystery. There is no objectivity. The best we can do is create the inner landscape of our choosing……and then trust the universe to take care of the outer one.

“Only when the consciousness displaces the predominance of the sense of being personally occupied with life does the hidden observer transform external existence from being the prosaic and materialistic thing it ordinarily is into something veritably divine.”   (P. Brunton)