A typical evening at my house; I am trying to write while my daughter plays music at high volume in the next room. Every few minutes, she runs into my office to show me something she’s found on YouTube (any excuse to get mom’s attention). The phone rings – my husband is on his way home. Uh oh, that means he is 15 minutes away and dinner is not quite done! I leap up from my desk to go into the kitchen and finish it. But my mind is still on my writing and I soon find myself frozen in mid-kitchen, trying to remember exactly why the refrigerator is open and what I am doing to dinner.
I have spent a HUGE portion of my adult life jumping from task to task like this, trying to get one task done while I am thinking about the next task… and the next… and the next.
Constantly doing, constantly in motion – isn’t it the American way?
My brain tends to jump from task to task naturally – is that the price of being a mom? Or maybe it’s just “monkey mind”. That’s the term meditation instructors use to describe a mind that constantly in motion, constantly grasping at one thought and then the next. I have a bad case of monkey mind. I learned to meditate 20+ years ago in self defense. Meditation is the only way I can get my mind to calm down and shut up!
All that jumping from thought to thought and task to task is really just chasing my tail. Back eons ago when I was a computer geek, we called it “thrashing”. Thrashing is what a computer does when it gets overloaded with work, The computer uses up all of its energy and time just pulling programs into working memory and then pushing them back out before anything can be accomplished. In severe cases of thrashing, no work gets done at all; but the poor computer keeps plugging away, working tirelessly to get it all done and actually accomplishing nothing.
Sounds like my ping ponging mind on a bad day.
But when I remember to slow down and focus on the one thing I am doing RIGHT NOW, to stop pushing to move on to the next task, then my life is so much calmer – and more enjoyable. AND I actually get more done.
After years of practicing meditation, I have come to believe that what I focus on in every moment is my choice. Life is coming at us faster and faster all the time. Technology makes it possible to attempt to do 3-4 things at once! I was thrilled to hear that Kansas has outlawed texting while driving. Now maybe I won’t kill myself trying to drive, text and adjust the radio simultaneously!
I can get sucked into racing around like an Indy 500 car, and end up thrashing around, feeling like a victim of my hectic schedule and all the people that want something from me. But am I really a victim or am I making myself miserable?? I love what Eckhart Tolle says; “True freedom is living as if you had completely chosen whatever you feel or experience in this moment. This inner alignment with the Now is the end of suffering.”
Hmmm, maybe I actually get to decide for myself whether I suffer or I am joyful in every single moment of every single day. That is DEFINITELY NOT a modern American idea. If something goes wrong in this country, normally our first urge is to figure out who is to blame and string them up in the press! That seems to be more important than fixing the problem. An oil rig spews oil in the Gulf of Mexico and the CEO of BP is to blame. No, maybe the environmentalists are to blame – it’s all those drilling regulations! No wait – President Obama is to blame! SOMEBODY MUST PAY!
I am afraid that we’re turning into a nation of finger pointing victims. Not Good.
In the book, Present Moment Wonderful Moment, Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh has this to say “Our mind is like a television with thousands of channels, and the channel we switch on is the channel we are at that moment. When we turn on anger, we are anger. When we turn on peace and joy, we are peace and joy. We have the ability to select the channel. We are what we choose to be.”
I don’t know about you, but I want to ‘change my channel’ and stop racing through life so fast that I don’t even notice where I am at or what I am doing. I want to choose to slow down and enjoy my life right now. And I want to pause, take a deep breath and stop blaming others. This is MY life and MY thoughts and MY feelings. I can “change my channel” and take responsibility for myself and my life. And I can have a wonderful, joyful calm day no matter what kind of craziness comes at me.