Present moment awareness is essentially the key to all aspects of personal development, spirituality, happiness, joy, creativity, you name it. And, lately I’ve been discovering the magic of being in the moment for getting shit done. Even things as simple as doing the dishes, tidying up the house, and, of course, sitting down to write a blog entry like I’m doing right now.
Starting is definitely a huge block to being productive and Leo Babauta at ZenHabits.net (the modern cultural use of Zen that I, too am appropriating) wrote an awesome post about How To Start.
I’m noticing that what’s working for me is focused attention to the moment. First, we decide in our minds that something needs to be done. More often than not our minds are telling us that 100 things need to be done. So there’s no shortage of decisions of the “what” that needs to be done.
When I’m being fully present I can no longer ignore that the dishes are piling up. Sure, I also need to write and work and, and, and… But, this is where surrender comes into play. I choose one single task. My intelligent mind will rate the importance of the tasks and sometimes another task IS more important than doing the dishes depending on time constraints. After the decision is made, then comes the hard part. Ha, well, it’s actually not hard at all, but it does take practice: I Need Do Nothing. I surrender. Whatever it takes for me to surrender that’s what it takes to get into the present moment and stay there. A simple thought where I say, “surrender”, is what works for me right now. Given the opportunity, the mind will always take you onto another task and BAM there goes your productivity. If the task is doing dishes, simply do that. Feel the water on your hands, smell the soap, watch the suds and hear the birds out the window, garbage truck in the alley or buzzing of your fridge. You can even incorporate taste if you want to but there’s no need to put anything into your mouth, just taste your tongue.
Use all of your senses to help you focused on the moment. The mind will be doing all sorts of funny things: having imaginary conversations about something deemed important, remembering conversations from the recent past or telling you there’s other things that need to be done RIGHT NOW. Let the thoughts come, you can’t stop them and you never will stop them from coming that’s the mind’s job and it does it very well. Just pay attention and then surrender them. I’ve even come up with a mental shorthand for myself. Whenever I’m having an imaginary conversation with someone in my head I notice it for what it is, say to myself, “I.C.” (imaginary conversation), then simply, “Surrender”. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t. If I have to I’ll repeat it again 5 seconds later.
This surrendering that I’m talking about is linked to what I was expressing in the article You Need Do Nothing. When I’m doing the dishes my mind wants to work. My mind feels proud of itself for being such a hard worker and it never wants to stop. It feels that if it stops working then nothing will get done. That’s the paradox. By getting your mind to stop working, by enforcing a break, you will be more productive. Do Nothing and the dishes get done. Your body already knows how to do dishes. There’s no need to figure out a plan for the future of clean dishes. There’s no need to evaluate the past of previous times when the dishes got done. In the Now everything is done. That’s present moment productivity.
Eckhart Tolle says a lot of great things about this. I’ve read The Power of Now about 5 times and every time I read it I get more and more from it. In A New Earth he expresses the purpose of being in the moment beautifully:
Whatever you do, you will be doing extraordinarily well, because the doing itself becomes the focal point of your attention. Your doing then becomes a channel through which consciousness enters this world. This means there is quality in what you do, even in the most simple action, like turning pages in the phone book or walking across the room. (p. 265)
Trust yourself. Let the dishes be the most important task for that moment. Focus on the doing of the task. Stay in the moment and pay attention to how the world unfolds before you. Amazingly you’ll find that more and more it will unfold exactly the way you want it to. And the bonus points are that you get to experience the joy of every single moment as you feel the earth beneath your feet, the sun shining in your eyes and the clink of glasses as you purposefully wash each dish and put it away. Now that is inner peace.