Mindfulness is a popular topic these days. It gets searched over 200,000 times a month on Google. Most often, it is linked to meditation. However, being mindful is much more than that! If you have trouble remembering where you put your glasses or keys, you are getting blunt feedback that you are not mindful. Recently, I got a taste of just how frustrating this can be while doing many small things as part of a bigger project. In my frustration, I was blessed by another insight into obtaining a deeper inner peace and clarity about my commitment to my inner well-being.
As a coach, I am mindful with my clients. However, I discovered I am not so good when I am a do-it-yourself home renovator. I recently put the finishing touches on a new kitchen. This kind of work puts my mind into a totally different zone. When I am focused on the task at hand of measuring, cutting and leveling, my mind seems to disconnect from my hands. I put down my glasses…and can’t find them a minute later. The same goes for a pencil and a tape measure. I realize that I am not present with my body as my mind is living in the future – thinking about the next move, remembering the measurements, and imagining how each piece is going to fit together. Underneath is a certain fear – to avoid making a costly mistake!
Losing my glasses is particularly maddening. I don’t need glasses to read. However, my glasses make close-up things blurry hence I remove them a lot. Once removed, they blend with the wood and sawdust and I can’t see them from afar! After awhile, I pull out a second pair so I can find the first pair. Sigh. This is a common form of inner conflict and it gnaws at me.
Does it matter? Yes it does. First of all, if you are not mindful, you can’t remember. After all, your mind was not there. It was lost in the past or future. Memory loss is frustrating in the short term and debilitating in the long term. I watched my mother suffer through Alzheimer’s for 12 years. Can we stem the tide? I believe we can – by using our memory. I’ve become a fan of memorizing things – like scripture, songs and poems…and my licence plate! Most recently, I memorized all five stanzas of Amazing Grace.
Here is the biggest insight I can offer you. As my kitchen project drew closer to its end, I began to slow down. I realized how driven I had been to “get ‘er done.” In my rush to get the overall project done, I lost my mindfulness. I was blinded by an outcome. As the pieces came together and the end was in sight, I became more mindful of my lack of mindfulness. I made it a point to silently speak to myself along the way. “I”m putting my glasses on the floor beside the saw.” “I am leaving my tape measure beside the cabinet.”
With that, I noticed the patterns – the process – that is the lifeblood of all work. I began to improve how I did things. I put pencils at both ends of the job – measuring inside the house and cutting outside on the porch. I noticed how I created mistakes through impatience or inexperience. I patiently corrected errors. In one case, I wired up an electric plug into the kitchen island twice – once into a box that proved too small, into a hole that was also too small. This came after drilling three times into the floor to avoid the hidden joist below.
My day to day experience became peace-filled when I focused on the small steps while not losing sight of the big picture. I have an unhealthy life-long habit of visualizing a future outcome and then hurriedly wanting to see it come true. This latest lesson has taught me that when we do things slowly, steadily and persistently, things go well. We experience peace and the results come in God’s timing – often much quicker than when we rush and make mistakes. This takes self-discipline in today’s world of everyone (like your boss) wanting instant results.
To be mindful is to be like a craftsman. Mother Teresa once said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” When we do, we experience God’s love for us in the present moment – the only time that is real. In these moments, our lives are in harmony with our creator and our dreams – and we are at peace.