Good morning SOTGC readers. The title of this post is from a Zen proverb about being in the present while still doing your normal routine. On any given day we are running through list after list in our head. We are doing one thing while our mind is starting and moving through the next four to twenty tasks we have ahead of ourselves. Those of us that are “big picture” people base every decision on the two/five/ten year picture of how our future will be affected by these decisions.
I am guilty of almost never being in the present, or at least I used to be. I have the typical A type personality that comes with any driven woman who can’t focus unless she has several goals that she is simultaneously working towards achieving. I’ve been known to start five emails at once and toggle between all of them until they are sent, one by one. Sometimes I feel that this is the most efficient way of doing things, or I am simply so worried that I’ll forget what I need to say that I’ll open new emails as I think about things just to make sure I can keep track of everything going through my head at once.
This can make one a very successful person, and will also drive you into an overstressed emotional state where your mind can’t focus and even the easiest of tasks seems insurmountable to finish. Though this post advocates being present and focusing on one job at a time, I am cognizant of the fact that most of us HAVE to be able to have many balls up in the air at once, and that has its place.
Six months ago I was thrown into a situation where my life almost literally turned upside down. Who I was, what I was doing with my life, WHY I was doing it, and “should I find and follow a different path” arose all at once. I was overwhelmed, I lacked focus which showed at work and in my social life, and I honestly couldn’t complete any one task no matter how mundane it was nor how often I had easily flown through it in the past.
So I turned to people I admired, who had gone through equally stressful times in their lives, and I asked what they did to get through it. A common theme I noticed amongst all of them was that they took time each week to focus on one thing that brought them complete happiness, and were completely present for that experience. Some went on trips, some started a new fitness course they had always wanted to take, some picked up hobbies they had always talked about but never got around to doing. And during these moments they would turn off the iPhone and Blackberry, and focus solely on that activity in that moment.
So how does one take these experiences and translate it into our busy lives. Some of us have careers and side projects that demand almost all of our time. Other have careers and families to balance and barely get a moment to eat let alone take an afternoon or weekend off to immerse ourselves in these healing activities.
“Chop Wood, Carry Water” is a way of thinking about being in the present, while still maintaining pace, finishing tasks, and moving onto the next activity in our daily lives. Few of us are getting ready to move to a retreat center, become a monk, and be able to be at peace with nothing but meditation on our minds. However, throughout our hectic days, when stress is at an all time high, if we can just focus on the ONE task we are currently on, then move to the next once we finish it, we may just be able to achieve that Zen-like state while functioning at the same fast pace we do.