I’ve been re-reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Miracle of Mindfulness on my Kindle. I’m having a beautiful experience revisiting this volume that I read so many years ago.
You’ve probably had this same experience whereby you begin reading a book you read years ago and suddenly remember how lovely it was the first time, right?
I’ve recently experienced a heavier weighted reliance on mindfulness: In part because of work pressure, in part due to personal issues, and partly because I want to cultivate more awareness on a moment-by-moment basis.
It’s too easy to slip into the lazy habit of being somewhere else. I want to be here now…and now…and now. It is a positive way for me to be in the world and it reminds me, especially in times of challenge, to remember the faithfulness of my breath and how it supports me both physiologically as well as spiritually.
Anti-awareness at work
In many ways, our workplace is the perfect laboratory for perfecting our relationship with awareness. Because we’re often challenged at work, we can easily slip into what I call anti-awareness.
Anti-awareness is the state of not being anywhere.
When we’re at work, we often daydream about where we’d rather be and what we’d rather be doing. But this daydreaming is the opposite of awareness; it’s anti-awareness in that we aren’t here now and neither are we anywhere else.
The antidote for anti-awareness is mindfulness
Anti-awareness poisons our present moments. It seeps into our consciousness like water gets into our shoes when we try to jump over the rain puddle but misjudge our step. Aren’t squishy socks are the worst?
I’ve written before about approaching work as a sacred undertaking. In doing so, think it’s key to understand that any action we take can be one taken in an attitude of reverence; they become offerings to awareness, so-to-speak.
It’s that kind of mindful awareness that Thich Nhat Hanh writes about in The Miracle of Mindfulness. In a series of letters to Brother Quang, a staff member at the School of Youth for Social Service in South Vietnam in 1974, he writes:
While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes, which means that while one is washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing dishes.”
If while washing the dishes, we think only about the cup of tea awaiting us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not “washing the dishes.”
What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes …and completely unable to experience mindfulness while standing at the sink.’
Such a person is neither present nor anywhere else.
When I wash my glasses, I wash my glasses
I wear eyeglasses to see clearly. But because I also have an oily complexion (even at age 60) my glasses need to be washed at least once daily and sometimes twice. I alternate between computer glasses and my regular pair and often I smudge them with fingerprints forcing me to wash my glasses.
I usually do this standing at the sink in the kitchen at work. Often times I am standing at the sink washing my glasses and thinking about the task I need to tackle when I get back to my desk. When I do this, I am not being mindful.
But when I stand at the sink and wash my glasses and focus only on washing my glasses, then I am fully alive and enjoying a mindful moment.
If I think about it, there are hundreds of moments each day that I fritter away in anti-awareness. This makes me sad.
But the good news is that I can control this and, with regular practice, enjoy more moments of mindful awareness and less anti-awareness.
So can you.