Monday, November 25, 2013

The Best of Attentions

Sunday this past weekend found me with a rare opportunity of un-allotted time; a few non-committed hours between hockey arena appearances and taxiing teenagers back and forth to work. Mike was occupied with a 5 hour training session for his coaching role and E-man was engrossed in a Lego project. (That was nice to see, he spends so many hours growing up these days that it was comforting to be reminded that there is still a little boy underneath all of the increasing independence.)

When you are a mom and this rare opportunity presents itself you have a checklist: ‘everything I’ve been neglecting’. It’s prioritized and itemized and burned into that part of your subconscious that wakes you up at 3am for a chat. My list looks like this

1.       Fold the laundry.

That’s it, a list of one item. Folding laundry is always the neglected chore; it is always on the list and always at the top.

Presented with an afternoon of un-allotted time and some careful planning a mom can also do some serious damage to their list! By the time my morning coffee was finished I had successfully set my intention on folding the laundry while everyone else was busy. At a steady pace and with a good dose of PMA (present moment awareness) I calculated that the mound of ‘washed and fluffed’ on the laundry room table could be diminished to 5 neat and tidy stacks of crisp corners and pretty pleats in under 2 hours.

With my day planned and myself psyched up for the folding job, I met Mike and Kate in the truck and completed the first run of drop offs. On the way back home I popped into the grocery store to pick up butter and parchment paper, stewing beef and dates. I made a quick stop at the hardware store for an extra string of Christmas lights and some zip ties to complete our outdoor light display. When I arrived home I put the zip ties to work stringing garland on our rusty porch rail while I still had my coat and gloves on. I unloaded the groceries from the car and went inside to put them away. While unpacking I warmed up the oven; Date Squares might as well be baking while I’m folding I figured (never overlook an opportunity to double duty). Date squares come together so easily and with so little effort you can also whip up a batch of oatmeal macaroons and dice a pot full of veg for Sunday stew and have a great conversation with a teenager at the Kitchen table all without breaking sweat. So quickly in fact that you can find yourself with some leftover time to accept an invitation to cuddle up on the couch for a movie and wash the dishes and answer a few emails. Heck before you know it you can be back in the taxi again – this time for a round of pick-ups that soon became dinner served, dishes washed, tea time –feet up, tuck-ins and pillow talk. Before your eyes you’ve accomplished a record number of successes in a single day!

Then comes Monday morning.
Here I am, in the laundry room, rummaging for matching socks and measuring wrinkled-ness against wear-ability; a little frustrated with myself for failing to achieve my intentions. All the time thinking to myself “Dam, Oprah and Deepak nailed it this morning!” Reflecting on day 11 of our 21 day Meditation Challenge (okay technically it’s day 15 but folding laundry isn’t the only place I’m behind). This morning’s meditation was focused on Intention vs. Attention and here I was wading up to my earlobes in example; well played universe, well played you caught me with my attentions down, shiny things got into my line of sight and I lost focus of my intentions. How
often does this happen? With certain regularity I'd say; to me, to you, to most people in the modern civilized industrial world. Unless you are a fulltime granola crunching, commune living, peace and enlightenment seeker, removed from society (for the record this would be me, if I wasn’t secretly terrified of having to stomp my own cabernet.) and even then I bet it happens, our best intentions don't get our attention.

This is the habit of our modern life and I am brought to mind Cecile Andrews' book Slow is Beautiful; a
n exceptional primer (if not a little too politically rich for my free thought spiritual brain) on reclaiming a life of meaning over matters. In her writing she addresses the very real paradox that the things we are very well able to identify as the most meaningful aspects of their lives, (think deathbed regrets); family, love, relationships, spending time with others and enjoying life are also the things we have great intentions to do right by.

Then we spend all of our attention on the very opposite; work, advancing careers and educations, increasing worth and consumerism, amassing and paying down debt, striving for markers of success and status, vacations and cars and promotions, trips to the dentist and Black Friday sales, Thursday night premiers, cellphone launches, networking groups, social branding, what we wear, how we smell, where we buy our tofu and who knows it.  We get distracted by shiny objects, misplace our attentions and find ourselves wearing really great shoes and staring at a pile failed and neglected intentions.

My intention was to fold the laundry, my attention was not.

It makes me curious...... just how much of my attention is actually being misplaced?  
Working on the premise that:
Intention is to speech as Attention is to action. One wants to accomplish great things, the other does.
I’m going to ask myself for the next little while “Is my Attention focused on my Intention right now?”

Worst case scenario; my family and friends will be getting a better piece of me. Best case scenario; the laundry will get folded!
Thank you Deepak, Oprah, Cecile, and the laundry Gods.