This year I’m trying very hard to find the Zen in everyday things—to focus on being in the moment. That’s more difficult than it sounds in this multitasking world where, thanks to the wonders of Bluetooth technology, we can talk on the phone and drive at the same time. Where we can shop for groceries and talk to our kids’ teachers simultaneously. Where we can shower while we listen to the news. We’re all expected to be able to do several tasks at once, and people wonder what the heck’s wrong with you if you need to concentrate on one thing at a time.
For writers, foucsing is even harder because we are constantly writing—we write while we wash dishes, while we’re in the shower, while we drive, while we eat ... pretty much if we’re awake, our characters are talking to us. Sometimes they chatter at us while we sleep. I build scenes while I’m sorting laundry, I create dialogue when I’m loading the dishwasher, Husband has been known to ask me if anything’s wrong if I’m quiet at the dinner table. “No, everything’s fine, I’m writing.” That’s really not very kind come to think of it. When I’m at dinner with Husband, I should be present and I’m not. Heck, I even build scenes and characters while I’m in the pool.
And those two areas are where I’ve decided to start finding the Zen and being more in the moment. This is a baby steps thing, I think.
I’ve been swimming for exercise for a long time—years, actually. On average, I swim about three times a week—more in the summer when we’re at the lake, but the interesting thing is, even though I’m in the water, I’m not really there. I’m doing laps but I’m in whatever town my current story is set—writing scenes and developing dialogue. So yes, I’m getting exercise, but that’s it. Part of why I exercise in water is because I love the sensation of weightlessness, I love the silky feeling of the water, I love how much it relaxes me. But if I’m writing, am I relaxing? Am I getting the full power of the spiritual healing that being in the water offers?
In January, I decided to use my time in the pool to be in the water—to empty my mind completely and just let myself soak up the experience. Most days, I can do it. Some days I can’t. But here’s the thing—the more I practice the mindfulness of swimming, the easier it is to focus my whole being instead of just my body.
The same thing is true of time spent with Husband—I’m not talking about the times we sit on the sofa and veg out through six episodes of whatever we’re currently binge-watching on Netflix or Acorn TV. I knit and write in my head during those times, while he’s usually either on his Kindle or sleeping, so it doesn’t matter. But when I’m sitting across the table from him eating breakfast or supper, it’s important for me to be there. It’s not just good for my marriage, it’s part of enjoying the experience of sharing a meal together. If I’m writing in my head at the table, I’m not aware of what or how much I’m eating. So I can miss out on great food and good conversation because my hero is in trouble or my heroine has to get herself out of some situation.
I’ve almost mastered the leave-the-work-upstairs-in-your-office part of being a freelance editor, but I haven’t quite gotten it yet as a writer. Again, like the Zen time in the pool, focusing on the people I’m with when I am with them is practice thing. But you know, you find food and conversations much more enjoyable if you’re all in. Writing is amazing and I love doing it, but Husband is amazing and wonderful too.
Church is a peaceful, lovely place to quiet my soul and that’s the next Zen space for me to focus on. Yes, I confess—my stories are in my head while I’m at church—don’t tell the pastor.