Practicing presence isn’t as easy as you think. I was given a challenge to focus on one thing for an hour.
This day in early November, I had a no particular plan but many possible options to choose from. I chose to work on a knitting basket of incomplete projects for one hour. I moved a little table to the back porch. I made myself comfortable on the sunny back porch with a cup of yerba mate tea. It felt rather decadent to devote this time to a single task. Settling in, I realized I didn’t have the directions in the basket to make the knitted rosette. Ah, they were nearby and easy to retrieve. Settling in again on the back porch, I thought it would be good to set a timer so that I wouldn’t miss a 3:00 p.m. appointment. I got up to do that. Returning to my spot, I noticed a plant that needed attention…pruned a few leaves and gave it some water.
Now where was I? Beginning to knit my rosette, right. I noticed a car driving through the back alley as I refocused on the knitting in front of me. My thoughts shifted to my oldest daughter, age 42, and with a learning disability. A sudden concern followed by a feeling of anger. What’s my role here? Remembering that she’s an adult in charge of her own life with her own helpers, guides and angels. Back to what’s my part here? To be myself with her and allow her to be herself with me! There’s nothing wrong and no one to fix. Urgh.
Back to knitting, warm sun on my face and arm. Cast on 66 sts. I wonder how long it takes to complete a rosette. The wind outside shakes leaves off the fruit trees. Should I get a cookie from the freezer to go with my tea? Did I leave Cee’s box of cookies in the car? I haven’t had the satisfaction of uninterrupted knitting in a very long time. I’ve got to send a card to Nan! Then, I don’t want to be anywhere else right now.
What would it be like to continually find respite in each and every moment? Like sinking into life without resistance? Repetitive motions, warm afternoon sun, sleepy reverie. Purl one row, knit one row, purl one row, yawn. Stand. Stretch. The mailman hasn’t come. What if I could notice all thoughts as neutrally as that one thought? Aha, the mailman just came, leaving two packages which I save to open later. A wave of sadness, a desire to take a time out of my life and do what? I notice a pain in my left knee; the neighbor’s barking dog. I want to defrost a cookie. I take two cookies from the freezer. Thirty minutes left. Time is getting short. A bird’s tweet. Mind wanders to a caption on a painting I happened to see earlier–“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” I notice how I like some thoughts and others, I don’t like. Is the goal not to get snagged by any of them? I should take a B vitamin. Return to presence with activity at hand. It takes a while to settle down and settle in. Being present with someone or something is to give the best of myself. It helps to do things that make me feel settled inside, like knitting this rosette. Giving quiet presence feels important. I have awareness of this but seldom do it or allow it. I’m used to fragmentation and doing things piecemeal. A little time for this or that, scattered energy. Annoyance. Dissatisfaction. Thoughts veer to the next thing on the to-do-list and the next.
Puffy white clouds, blue sky, sun. I miss having my good old friend to talk with although the other part–the unruly angst between us wasn’t worth it or was it? Could we have grown through it? The porch turns cold as clouds cover the sun. What would it be like to be minding my own affairs and allowing others to mind theirs?
There’s the timer! One hour to knit a rosette! Anger when I get into someone else’s business. Back off. I finish off the rosette. Sometimes, I like being a stranger somewhere. Sometimes, I like anonymity. I like anonymity or just being new to a place, new to people–just passing through.
Is there a moral to this one-hour of focused attention. I notice how I sit somewhere and go anywhere and what thoughts trigger me. Am I open to what I’m seeing following this exploration? I see that attention moves quickly. To bring attention to what is present is a real practice. Am I gone or present to every thing that comes into my life? When am I most present? What holds my attention?
Have you ever followed your mind? What did you experience?