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It's September! September is one of my favourite months. It's a time of renewed energy and anticipation of cooler weather, outfits with layers, holidays, a new concert season, a new school year...

Of course in this, the darkest timeline, all of those things (except maybe the weather?) are going to be disappointing. But we've gotten this far together, and if we stick together (from two meters apart) we'll figure it out. We can still put together cute outfits, carve pumpkins, drink lattes, and continue to smash the patriarchy, overthrow fascism, end racism, and look after the living world.

As you'll understand after you read today's newsletter, I'm particularly grateful to you for reading. Your attention means a lot to me.

With love,
Amy
A blue jay is seen from behind, looking to the left with his head in profile

Attention

In her book Braiding Sweetgrass, mother, ecologist and Citizen Potawatomi Nation member Robin Wall Kimmerer writes about learning to make baskets out of black ash, starting with selecting and cutting down the tree. Throughout the process of transforming the tree into baskets, her teacher John Pigeon encouraged his students to remember that they were working with wood that took the tree thirty or forty years to grow.

The experience sharpened Kimmerer's attention towards the provenance of the things in her life:
 
What would it be like, I wondered, to live with that heightened sensitivity to the lives given for ours? To consider the tree in the Kleenex, the algae in the toothpaste, the oaks in the floor, the grapes in the wine; to follow back the thread of life in everything and pay it respect? Once you start, it's hard to stop, and you begin to feel yourself awash in gifts.

Paying attention to the provenance of the objects and resources in our daily lives opens a window for gratitude, which is profoundly important for wellbeing. Acknowledging the history of the materials around us also creates a deeper recognition of the connection between ourselves and the people and other living things we benefit from.

In a chapter about language, Kimmerer describes advice from elders:
 
'You should go among the standing people [trees]' or 'Go spend some time with those Beaver people.' They remind us of the capacity of others as our teachers, as holders of knowledge, as guides.

She says, "We don't have to figure out everything by ourselves: there are intelligences other than our own, teachers all around us."

By paying attention, we can learn about systems, processes, and relationships.  We can learn simple facts, like where to get the best berries, or big ideas, like why it's important to follow the rhythms of the seasons, or how systems can be connected.

Author Nir Eyal says that researchers found that when they taught smokers how to notice the urge to smoke and ride it out, they were more likely to be able to stop smoking. He suggests using the same technique to manage distraction: notice when you feel the urge to do something other than your primary task.  Once you have noticed your distraction, you can choose where to focus your attention.

Storytelling coach Marsha Shandur says the first step to dealing with your "beast", or your inner critic, is to notice it. When you notice your beast, you can acknowledge it, address it, and choose what to do with the messages it's whispering.  

When you notice that your mind has wandered, or that an inner voice is whispering nasty things in your ear, suddenly you have control.

Toronto coach Robin Altman is one of my favourite instructors from my coach school. In the course called Moving Toward Artful Coaching she told us, "Coaches are professional observers, not professional interpreters." One of the key jobs of a coach is to notice and describe.  We notice emotions, unconscious responses, automatic behaviours, relationships and patterns.

Once I, as coach, have brought those patterns, responses, or behaviours to my client's attention, they are at choice. They can choose to stay the course or do something different. They have agency.

We speak of "paying attention" and "capturing attention" because attention is valuable.  Media companies will do anything to keep your attention. When I first thought about this topic, I asked myself why. What is it about attention that makes it so valuable?

And as I researched and wrote, the question answered itself: Attention gives you gratitude and connection. It gives you information and understanding. It gives you control. It gives you agency. It gives you choice.

An external force that captures your attention can control the information you receive, your understanding of the world, and the very choices you make.

Attention is currency. Attention is power. How do you spend yours?

What's NewThinking about all the cool stuff I'm doing, wearing a grey blazer and sky blue top

I'm so pleased to say that I found a team willing to let me practice team coaching on them. I can't say much but I'm captivated by this team and looking forward to learning more. Team coaching has been an ambition of mine since I started coaching. I love to work with individuals, and will always do it, but the challenge and impact of working with teams is exponential.

And I've enlisted the services of a coach myself, to help me organize and prioritize my writing practice. I've been sniffing around the idea of writing more for a few years now, and I'm finally going to get on with it. If you're reading this, I trust that that's good news! I don't know where this writing will end up, but it will eventually be online somewhere — when I figure it out, I'll let you know.

Fun and Interesting

  • It’s those comments that have made me feel like I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough. To be a programmer, to be a mom, to be a friend. Bekah Hawrot Weigel, coder and mother of four, was diagnosed with ADHD in the midst of the pandemic. This is her first-hand account of re-evaluating her life through this new lens, and how coding saved her life. ADHD, the quarantine, and me [github.io]
  • I read Lost Connections by Johann Hari a few years ago, and I fully intend to write a newsletter about it sometime, but until then this Ted talk is a good introduction to some of the ideas from the book. This could be why you're depressed or anxious | Johann Hari [youtube.com]
  • Another newsletter, yet another way to see the world. WindowSwap invites contributors to send in 10-minute videos of the view out their window. If you combine it with Mike Conley's Picture-in-Picture feature in Firefox (there's something lovely about knowing the people who make your tools — it's like knowing the people who grow your veggies), you can have a little window with a view right on your screen while you work. At the moment I'm in San Francisco with a beautiful cat and the Golden Gate bridge in the distance. Window Swap [window-swap.com]

Thank you for reading this far!

If you like what you read, hit reply and let me know, or forward it and let someone else know. If you have questions or comments, hit reply and let me know. If you have seen something interesting out there, hit reply and let me know. Are you seeing a trend here? If so... hit reply and let me know! I look forward to hearing from you. ❤️

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Copyright © 2020 Amy Rhoda Brown Coaching, All rights reserved.


I live and work on land which for thousands of years has been part of the traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Haudenosaunee, the Anishinaabe and the Huron-Wendat. Today, this meeting place is still home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island, and I am glad to be able to live and work here.

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