Thursday, January 21, 2010

'Absolute unmixed attention is prayer'

These words are from Simone Weil, French philosopher, Christian mystic and social activist.

Born to an agnostic Jewish family in 1909 it wasn't until Simone experienced a religious ecstasy early in 1937 - while in Assisi at the same church in which St. Francis prayed - that she said her first prayer. The following year she had an even more powerful revelation after which her writing became increasinly spiritual.

In 1943, at the age of 34, Weil was diagnosed with tuberculosis and told to rest and eat well in order to take care of herself. However, she continued to limit her food to equal that available to the German occupied French nationals. As a result, Weil died later that year and was said to have killed herself by her own actions.

'Absolute unmixed attention is prayer.' When you think about that sentiment it makes a lot of sense. Paying attention - really, really paying attention - to another person makes them feel loved, wanted, valued, special and important. Just as we feel when, in the words of Jean Vanier, we sit in the quiet, gentle presence of God. We feel loved, wanted, valued, special and important.

Absolute unmixed attention is prayer. Remember that the next time you are with someone. Really be with them. Not superficially present; not looking over their shoulder or thinking about something other than the present. I believe that Simone was right on. Give absolute unmixed attention. The best gift ever.

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