Sunday, August 23, 2015

365 True Things: 147/Presence

I am not disciplined. I want to be disciplined, and I very frequently try to be disciplined. But it doesn't come naturally to me.

By the same token, I suffer from a lack of presence. I mean, sure, sometimes I get into a sort of "flow" with something I'm doing and lose myself joyfully in an ongoing present moment. But too often I let myself get engulfed by a sort of busy-ness.

Even if I'm not strictly wasting time (though I'm good at that and have to curb that inclination), I can get wrapped up in the notion of somehow lining up all my ducks in a row and blasting them out of the water, leaving me—ultimately—with a calm flat sea on which to sail in whatever direction I please. The myth includes the idea that I will know exactly what direction that is, if only I can clear the water.

As a friend of mine reminded me, however, ducks don't swim in a line.

I'm pondering this because this attitude of busy-ness feels confining, constricting, imprisoning.

The feeling makes me think of this poem by the 14th-century Persian mystic and poet Hafez:
The small man builds cages for everyone he knows.
While the sage, who has to duck his head when the moon is low,
keeps dropping keys all night long
for the beautiful, rowdy prisoners.
I'd like to open the cage door a crack wider. (Because I know it's not locked; thank goodness for that.)

Of course, there are things I do "have" to do, like clean the kitty litter, wash the dishes, eat, do my work-work, walk the dog. All of these things can be great pleasures if I let them be. (Well, kitty litter maybe not so much, except in having done it. And work-work can be iffy.)

But there are many things I "want" to do, and there I let the attitude of busy-ness keep me from them. Busy-ness seems to fuel a perverse sort of resistance and makes me feel overwhelmed and stuck.

Of course, basically I'm fine. I'm not pathologically overwhelmed and stuck. I get things done. Even some of the things I "want" to do.

But I'd like to recognize a certain mindset, and practice freeing myself from it.

One step, which I'm going to attempt this next week, is to unplug. Since much of my work is on the computer, this will be difficult. But I would like to make an effort—do my best—and pay attention. So, for starters: no Facebook, and check email only once a day.

And I will add twenty minutes of meditation to my day. 

And I will try to pay attention to transitions. Sit and breathe for a moment, feel myself in my body, at each point in the day when I finish one activity and consider what could be next. A universe of possibilities! I am so rich with options.

If I really want to be more present, discipline has got to figure in there. And I do, so it must.

Small steps.

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