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?