Michael Mendizza

Writer, Filmmaker



Attention, Parenting

It must have been in the mid 1970’s, sitting at the counter of the local health food store a drop dead gorgeous young woman pulled up. I commented on how beautiful she is. This turned the conversation. ‘Life is all about attention,’ she said. Now, that’s a Wow insight! In 2004 biologist Rupert Sheldrake published stunning research on the feeling of being watched. You know, turning your head at the red light and the person in the next car is looking right at you – attention. I was about fifteen feet away. A mother was looking after her two-year-old on the grass, a puppy resting near. I made no physical gesture. The moment my attention landed on the puppy, the tail began wagging, head up, ready to play. Fifteen feet is a long way. It was attention.

The book Physic Discoveries behind the Iron Curtain described a mother rabbit wired in a lab registering as her babies were killed one after the other in a submarine somewhere under the Black Sea. That’s a lot more than fifteen feet. For more than twenty-five years pre and perinatal psychologists have documented shared perceptions between the unborn child and its mother. Attunement, attachment or bonding, call it what you like, is all about attention, like falling in love. Attention is telepathic.

OK, let’s say something is transmitted and received, shared. So what? The first time I met Joseph Chilton Pearce I described how attunement or bonding comes in through the senses and telepathically from the inside out. The attuned child is like a television set and the adult is the broadcast and vice versa, this stream flows in both directions. The program, using a television metaphor, is the moment by moment emotional meaning of the adult’s experience as they move through their day. Is this encounter safe or scary? Do I touch it, eat it, play with it or run away? Every moment this program is broadcast and is being watched and felt by the child, not just the tone of voice, or facial expression, through the senses, telepathically too, shared directly from the inside out.

Like the puppy or Rupert’s being watched experiments something happens when we and another share attention. We sync up. Shared meaning becomes more intense, validated, renewed moment by moment. Imagine what this knowing does to a seven and a half month-young child, Carly Elizabeth, for example. Her trust and confidence in herself expands. She is more at ease, calmer, less anxious. This frees her energy and attention to explore, engage, test and laugh. The more she engages the more she discovers and this excitement loops back inviting more and more.

Realizing the importance of attuned telepathic attention, I find myself staying close. I rest my head on the floor as Carly places one knee in front of the other for the first time. After two or more weeks of steady play, what we call practice, trial and error, Carly Elizabeth did it. She got that tush up, knees under, one arm forward and then the other and Bam, she is crawling! This is an enormous rite of passage, life changing.

If we are quiet and listening, not to words but for that quiet knowing, this attention we share informs us just as much as it provides context, meaning and direction for our children. Attention opens our hearts to empathic resonance. Like radar we track the physical and emotional states that make up our children’s changing experience moment by moment. And just like being watched we and our children know when this resonate connection is there or not. We feel safer, seen for who and what we really are, understood and appreciated when the light of shared attention is shining. We don’t feel as good when it is not.

I can’t help it. I feel sad and sometimes even mad when I see a baby or those big oversized kids slouched in fancy strollers, eyes glazed, staring, mom or dad lost in their hi-tech virtual reality, texting, surfing the net, or babbling away like the Mad Hatter. The moment by moment meaning of shared attention isn’t there and neither the adult nor child know what they are missing. Deep down they do. This absence of this complete attunement is fertile soil for those hungry ghost addictions Gabor Mate writes about. You’ll see.

There goes Carly Elizabeth up on all fours, eyes bright, reaching. I sound like a slobbery drunk but I am so amazed by her attention, not missing a thing, how her experience is so immediate, who and what she so clear. She is reminding me of how important vision, persistence and practice are, except, she isn’t doing any of these. She is just exploring, discovering, growing every moment. We call this play. Yesterday she couldn’t roll off her belly. Today she flips like an Olympic gymnast pushing with her arms straightening until she is sitting fully upright. The local yoga master would be envious. I am! You have to be quiet to notice all this. That is the first step. What to do next is pretty obvious.

Michael Mendizza