“We must be completely present for what we are doing, without sacrificing or rushing what’s in front of us in order to get to ‘more important’ stuff later. No matter how mundane the activity, treat everything as important and take pleasure in it. At bottom, whatever we are doing right now is what we are engaged in and it deserves our full attention and appreciation.”
I read this passage in a book called, Less: Accomplishing More by Doing Less, by Marc Lesser. I had been sent the manuscript in the hopes of providing a testimonial but, at the time, I had too many books in the cue and couldn’t commit. So, I put the manuscript on top of a pile in my office and forgot about it. One day, when I was feeling particularly frenzied, I picked up the book and went into my sunroom to have a look. I was immediately taken by the simple, elegant writing style, the obvious wisdom in the author’s experience, and the good, common sense advice.
The passage above held a clue as to why I was feeling so frenzied, and Marc’s suggestion to “treat everything as important and take pleasure in it,” made me stop and think about how I was operating in my life.
How often are you engaged in a task while focused on another activity that needs to get done? I soon discovered that I was doing it constantly. I’d be folding laundry or emptying the dishwasher, for instance, while at the same time ruminating about the number of emails that still needed a reply. Or, I’d be answering emails, while feeling distracted by a writing deadline that had to be met in short order. I was perpetually rushing through my life rather than living it. And, the tension of doing one thing while focused on the need to do another, left me feeling exhausted and irritable.
After reading more about this concept in Marc’s book, I immediately put his wisdom into action. When I was feeding my cat, Poupon, I listened with tenderness to his excited meows, felt the can in my hand, and heard the fork scrape against the bowl as I placed the food inside. If I were writing at my desk, I felt the keys under my fingers, focused my attention on the page, and allowed myself to get lost in the words. No more “body in one place, mind in another.” I was engaged in the practice of actually being present for my life. Pretty soon I did, in fact, find myself taking pleasure in the task at hand. And I actually got more done, felt energized, and became a whole lot better to be around.
Marc’s one, simple piece of advice has made a significant difference in the quality of my life, and I invite you to give it a try this week. Follow the “Take Action Challenge,” and get back to actually experiencing the joy of your life rather than rushing through it.
Take Action Challenge
This week, I encourage you to do two things:
1. Simply notice where your mind is while engaged in an activity. You might be reading emails, watching TV, listening to a friend, or working on a project at your desk. Are you present for the activity or are you thinking about something else that needs to get done? Just bring awareness to your behavior without judging it.
2. Next, gently bring your mind back to the present activity by saying something like:
“I choose to be fully engaged in this activity right now.”
Then, use your senses to ground yourself in the present moment. What do you feel with your body? What do you hear or see? What can you taste or smell?
You’ll know you’re getting it when you feel yourself slowing down, relaxing, and breathing more deeply and fully. Then, wait for the joy. It shows up when you slow down long enough to realize that this very moment is actually the best time of your life, regardless of what you’re doing.
This week’s video shares the journey of aging (with a whole lot of laughs along the way). Thanks, Kelly, for sending it along! You’ll find it here.