I'm not exactly a Zen kinda guy. Not historically, anyway. I've had my moments. I know how to take a breath every now and then and enjoy where I am. And, being obsessed with self improvement, I've read all the books on self actualization and living in the moment. I'm hip.
Living in the moment ... that never really made sense to me. Of course I'm living in the moment! I'm right here, right now, right on? So that whole business, it never clicked for me. I never saw what was so tough about it. All those bumper stickers and e-mail signatures and self-help books are just talkin' crazy, man.
Except I don't think I've been in any moments for a long, long time.
OK, here's the scenario: I'm here and now. I'm walking in the park, enjoying a nice Spring-like day. I'm listening to some music or an audiobook. I'm thinking about something that happened this morning. I'm worrying about something that's going to happen tomorrow. I'm off on a tangent. I'm considering three new business ideas. I'm thinking about a goof I made in my last book. I'm hoping I can remember everything that happened in that book while I write the next one. I'm stressing over potentialities. I'm concerned about forgetting to do something, neglecting to take some action. I'm FREAKING OUT.
But that's what it has always been for me. Even those rare times when I've been "still," and "quiet," I'm neither still nor quiet. I've never, ever, ever sat in one place and cleared my mind. I wouldn't even know how.
I was thinking about this today, while I was on my walk. Worrying and obsessing about it, actually. I was thinking about some of what I've read so far in a book called "Mindsight," by Dr. Daniel Siegel. The Doc is talking about using focused attention as therapy. He has his patients do what he calls "body scans," having them focus on their bodies from their toes to their heads, one bit at a time, while being aware of the thoughts or memories or emotions that come up. He gets some surprising results, and is usually able to help his patients discover and overcome some past emotional trauma that's causing all manner of problems.
This idea of being able to overcome stress or trauma or whatever by controlling what you pay attention to really appeals to me. I know that it can veer towards new-agey, but I think it has a lot of merit.
Which brings me to "in the moment."
I have a hard time living in the moment because my brain doesn't like to focus on one thing. My attention is scattered almost all of the time. I'm constantly splitting my attention to three, four, five, maybe a dozen different ideas, passions, and interests, all in the name of getting what I want out of life. The result: I get a lot less of what I want than I could get if I were just more focused.
These days we live in this multitasking world. I used to wear my multitasking merit badge with pride, pointing out to anyone who would listen that "today I wrote an article while creating a graphic and building a website as I put the finishing touches on a video I'm editing." Multitask Man. He's everywhere.
And whenever anyone would say something like, "You can do one thing really well, or do a lot of things half-assed," I would scoff. These fools clearly had no idea of Multitask Man's massive might! My powers of do-everything are unmatched in this galaxy or any other!
But now I wonder.
Yes, I am a multi-talented fella. No sense being modest about that. I'm not a modest person.
Yes, I get a lot done.
Yes, a lot of it is quite awesome.
But dammit, I'm tired. Exhausted, in fact. And not only that, I'm torn and confused most of the time about what it is, exactly, I'm wanting to accomplish. And, worst of all, I'm annoyingly aware of the fact that this is what some folks warned me about when I was a young spitfire, out to do it all. I'm getting burned out on all the damned multitasking.
So living in the moment? Not exactly. Unless I'm living in a whole bunch of parallel moments, like alternate realities in which I'm busy doing lots and lots of things. Doesn't seem likely, though.
Today, as I walked around Memorial Park with nothing but my brain for company and mental stimulation, I started to see a little glimmer of in-the-moment-ness. It wasn't easy to get in touch with, I'll admit. I had to keep coming back to it. I had to keep forcing myself to focus on it. I had to keep making sure I was aware of that, and nothing else. Aware of being in this park, feeling this breeze, hearing these birds, smelling these pine needles. I had to come back to it over and over and over, but by God if I didn't manage to be there, and then, right as it was all happening.
I still don't get it, of course. I'm still pondering exactly what "in the moment" really means, and how a multitasker like me can get his hands on it. I think it starts with stopping the multitasking thing and concentrating on one thing at a time.
That's gonna be tough. I'm kind of addicted to doing things all at once, and really, really fast. But maybe I can convince myself to slow down and enjoy what I'm doing "in the moment." And then, one day, I might actually understand what all the damned bumper stickers and e-mail signatures and self-help books are trying to tell me.