I do yoga. I meditate. I’ve even spent time in a Buddhist center. But how do you do that – really?
I think the answer came to me during a single week filled with several a-ha moments. First, there was the true appreciation of the moment – in my case, the shower. My mind was wandering, as it always does in there, and I thought back to my earlier showers, when I’d just returned home from the hospital. I couldn’t be alone in there. Imagine showering with your mother helping and looking on, and you begin to realize just how delicious a straightforward shower by yourself can be. I was able to look upon my current shower with real gratitude for the simple gift that it is.
Next, I was watching TV and a commercial came on for some cable company or other advertising how with their service you could watch multiple channels at the same time. There on the screen was one basketball game, and up in the right-hand corner were other little players running around – mini feed from a whole other game! Seriously? Why? Just pick one! But the world encourages multi-tasking. Our phones do it. Our computers do it. And we do it. We should seriously cut it out.
“Never do more than one thing at a time. Ever.” Words from Anna, my yoga teacher. And I’m taking her advice, although multi-tasking kind of became impossible for me after the brain hemorrhage anyway. Seriously. I can’t even take in the scenery in the power chair without running into something. It’s 100% focus, all the time, or there’s trouble.
So, if you’re going to watch a game, grab a big bowl of popcorn, open a beer and just watch one. Along the same lines, if you’re going to take a shower, take a shower. Don’t busy up your brain thinking of all the things you have to do that day. Be where you are. Profound, isn’t it? Take in the suds, the steam, the sensations. You know that moment after you’ve turned the water up a little hotter, right when the goosebumps hit your flesh but before your skin gets used to the new temperature and the goosebumps fade? Experience that. Be in that moment.
It does take practice. As a writer, some of my best ideas come to me in the shower. I don’t want to give that up. So I’ve designated the last ten minutes or so to letting my mind wander and make up sentences to my heart’s content.
Anna posed some interesting questions recently. When was the last time you were “all in?” Had all five senses fully engaged? Had the world shrink around you until you could only see, hear, smell, taste and feel whatever you were involved in?
Umm … okay, I’ll say it. I can’t be the only person who was thinking about sex here, right? And I don’t want to get all in your personal business, but for me? Let’s just say it would be particularly sad if that were the last time I was “all in.”
In fact, I like to compensate by being all in, all the time. I’ve taken to adopting that little saying to everything I do. Eating a chocolate, I think, “If you’re going to eat a chocolate, eat a chocolate.” And that reminds me to take it in, to savor it. If you’re going to eat dinner, eat dinner. And I turn off the TV. And my favorite and by far the easiest: if you’re going to walk the dog, walk the dog. I do love walking Frankie. I’ve decided never to complain about being too busy again. I like being outside, the nice weather, seeing neighbors, squirrels, Frankie looking happy laying in the grass. My next book should be called Zen and the Art of Dog-walking. I do have the advantage of always having a seat with me, so we can stop anywhere the mood strikes us or his little legs give out. But frequent places with benches. Hit the park. Make it enjoyable, not one more chore. Heck, sit in the grass! I’m sure Fido will be happy for the company down on his level.
Last week, Frankie and I were stopped in the shade. It was one of those pretty, mackerel skies that I love. I was leaning back feeling the breeze on my face, while he was sniffing and kicking in the grass. A woman in a jogging suit and one of those serious fast walking paces went by, phone ear pieces jiggling from her head. She looked extremely jealous. In fact, she said as much. “How nice! Look at you two relaxing. I wish!” she laughed. Well, I ask you – what was stopping her? She was out for a walk the same half-hour that I was. What made my walk more relaxing was that I was in it. Not on my phone. Not planning my day. Not exercising. And not all at the same time. Nothing is stopping you either. Go all in.