Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Being Present

"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, 
concentrate the mind on the present moment."

I recently met a lovely man and talented artist named Andreas Kunert.  He is a stone muralist, and I was fortunate enough to visit his masterpiece in the Nanaimo Convention Centre.  The piece is awe-inspiring, and I felt honored to be witnessing it in the presence of Andreas.  I asked him what he thought about when he was creating his art.  "I'm thinking about the next stone," he said.  His answer reminded me of a video I saw about a quilter.  The interviewer asked her the same question I had asked Andreas and she said, "When I quilt, I quilt."  It's so simple!  I suspect that all successful artists are very present when they're creating beauty.  

It's a good reminder for me as I multi-task my way through the day: preparing meals, doing laundry, scheduling appointments, tidying the house...and basically doing everything it takes to run a household and take care of two kids, two cats and a dog!   Am I 'present' when I'm performing all of these tasks?  Absolutely not.  When I'm slicing grapes, I'm not just slicing grapes, I'm chatting with Pip, I'm watching Crazybaby crawl around the kitchen, I'm pausing to scramble the eggs or butter the toast or pour the water, and I'm thinking about what else needs to be done to get us out the door in the next hour.   

Multi-tasking seems like a necessity at this time in my life, but I could be wrong.  Is multi-tasking overrated?  Maybe the times that I forget to check the jeans' pockets for Kleenex before throwing them in the laundry are the times that I'm trying to do too much at once.  Multi-tasking allows you to do more in less time, but at what cost?  It's food for thought. 

Ekhart Tolle writes about "awakened doing," in A New Earth.  He says there are three modalities of awakened doing: acceptance, enjoyment and enthusiasm.  He writes, "you need to be vigilant to make sure that one of them operates whenever you are engaged in doing anything at all-from the most simple task to the most complex."  He goes on to say that if you're not in one of these three states, "look closely and you'll find that you're creating suffering for yourself or others."  

With that in mind, I accept that all of these chores need to be done, but I'm not enthusiastic about them and I don't enjoy them.  I'm happiest when everyone is fed and clothed and the house is relatively tidy, (notice I didn't use the word 'clean,') and I can just BE with my kids.  Yes it's important for them to see that we all have jobs to do, (and I often enlist Pip's help), but we are all a lot happier when I'm able to be fully present with the girls.  And they are such wonderful little teachers because they are always so present themselves.