A Shift in Perception

The resolutions I’m coming up with are all actions. Some are mental actions and others are physical actions, but they’re all (if I’m doing it the way I intend) concrete, measurable actions that I’m choosing because I think they are things that will help increase the happiness in my life. This has got me thinking, though, about those things that I can’t change.

At this moment, I’m blogging rather than doing the dishes. In fact, I’m blogging because there are dishes to do. And I don’t want to do them. What I’d like to do is something I read years ago in Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh:

“I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water, and each movement of my hands. I know that if I hurry in order to eat dessert sooner, the time of washing dishes will be unpleasant and not worth living. That would be a pity, for each minute, each second of life is a miracle. The dishes themselves and the fact that I am here washing them are miracles!”

I recognize that I’m rarely in the moment, and it’s possible that I miss a great deal of happiness this way. I’ve considered making “Do one thing at a time,” one of my resolutions. I’ve been reading and hearing a lot of things about how multi-tasking isn’t as effective as focusing on one task at a time, and I’d really love to try it, but I’m not at all sure how I’d get anything done with two small children around if I did just one thing at a time.

But perhaps mindfulness isn’t as black and white as I’m making it out to be. I’m approaching this as though I need to be in the moment constantly. Maybe simply being mindful a few times a day would be enough to bring me back to the present moment and let me appreciate where I am.

It seems very challenging to shift a perception, to turn, “Doing dishes: ugh! But if I don’t do them now, I’ll regret it tomorrow,” to, “Doing dishes: what a great opportunity for peaceful reflection!”

But when I look back, I realize I’ve experienced pretty profound shifts in perception before. When my first child was born five years ago, I was initially overwhelmed by the amount of “nothing” I did throughout the day. My daughter would nurse for 1 to 1.5 hours at a time and I would just sit there. I watched a lot of TV, but sometimes I just couldn’t watch another minute and shut the thing off. And I sat. And I looked at my baby. And I nursed. And the next time I looked up at the clock, 45 minutes had passed. Having struggled for a couple of years to get myself to sit in meditation, I felt proud that I could sit still for so long. This likely was helped along by oxytocin and sleep deprivation, but when I look back, these times of closeness with my daughter, just sitting there doing nothing, are some of the most vivid and cherished memories I have of that harried newborn time. While expecting my second child last year, these were the moments to which I most looked forward. Of course, I didn’t have near as much time to do nothing with both a newborn and a 4-year-old.

I’m fairly certain, however, that I’m nowhere near being able to shift my perception of a screaming tantrum. That may be part of the advanced course.

What perception shifts have you experienced? Have they come on quickly, or were they gradual? Were they a result of conscious effort, or did they just happen?

One Reply to “A Shift in Perception”

  1. For me, doing the dishes is time to clock out. I look forward to doing them when I have time. Some of my perception shifts have come on quickly, meaning, the ones that I have been enjoying (like the dishes) I’ve enjoyed for quite some time but just realized it recently. I also notice that when I tell myself I like or dislike something when I’m actually thinking the opposite I start to slowly believe what I am telling myself. For instance, when you said you’d tell yourself you were being a bad mom, then you will start to truly believe that and act for like a bad mom. That’s something I work on often. Telling myself how I want to be then it outwardly happens eventually….I hope.
    Tantrums are easier for me because I know she just needs to have it and end it herself without me interfering too much. The crying and whining, in general, does often get under my skin and starts me on a downward spiral.

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