“Attention is how we learn and integrate new knowledge, but it is also how we love and care for ourselves and one another.” - Cora Crisman, Integral Steps instructor. Last year, we talked about this in a newsletter titled “Attention is the purest form of love,” which stated: “To give someone our complete attention is to let them know they matter enough to spend my energy and my time exclusively on them. As parents, teachers and caregivers… moments of true attention allow the other to feel our care, our love.”
With this idea of attention, so central to the development of our self, skills and abilities, and feelings of safety, how can we create spaces to promote its cultivation? Especially during the digital era, which is asking us to pay attention to so many things at once, and to move our tasks into a solely cerebral place sometimes (we aren’t making something with our hands, moving our bodies, or even using our voices, we are just engaging our eyes and minds).
In conversation with Cora about fostering attention in the classroom, she mentions one central concept: “I have to enter the space being calmed and making sure my own needs are met.” Otherwise, there could be a surface level of attention (making sure kids are physically safe during class, or playing the song they were asked, for instance, but not necessarily aware of how they’re feeling) but the teacher won’t be able to either enter or foster a deeper level of attention (where students are engaged, feel heard and seen, and real learning occurs).
Once these central requirements are in place, here are some ways to cultivate attention in children (the examples are explained based on a classroom dynamic, but they can be extrapolated to other spaces, like the household):