The "Thinking Critically" exercise in my textbook instructed me to select a task that I normally dislike or avoid and perform that task with mindfulness. Since exercising is the most common "task" I tend to avoid, I decided to go on a walk/jog/run. Normally, I would grab my phone and ear buds and listen to music or talks or other media...anything to take my mind off of the idea that I am exercising and also to make it easier for me to justify the time spent in the activity as "worthwhile". I often make phone calls. Yes, I am a multi-tasker. (What mom isn't?) This time I left the ear buds behind and the phone off..
At first, I focused my attention on what I felt physically. I noticed I held a lot of tension in my shoulders and hands and that when I released that tension, I had more energy to use as I walked and jogged. I counted the steps I took with each breath in and out. I let go of the anxiousness I felt to get the whole thing over with! I gave attention to the path I was traveling and noticed the differences in the several types of paths - gravel, dirt, concrete, asphalt, and a little grass. I also noticed that the bridge across the paseo has quite a bit of motion to it when heavy traffic passes over it. When I arrived at the bottom of the paseo, I noticed that the temperature dropped by several degrees from what it was on the road above. The humidity was higher, and there were more insects. When I focused on breathing and counting steps, I found myself less aware of the distractions from traffic noises. On the other hand, when I turned my attention to my surroundings, I noticed sounds I had previously been unaware of...like children playing in a distant school yard, dogs barking, birds calling, etc. I even discovered where a bunch of feral cats hide in the storm drains.Time went much faster than I thought it would. I was sure that paying attention and being present in the moment would make the task seem endless. My anxiety melted away and even though my muscles were tired, my mind was alert and I felt an inner energy I had been missing earlier.
I am going to apply more of this principle to other areas of my life -- living in the present and savoring each moment. I even tried it while folding laundry yesterday. I don't get quite as many different tasks accomplished, but I am finding that I remember more, forget less, and have less anxiety. I make fewer mistakes and I feel a greater sense of appreciation for the beauty of the world around me and the challenges I am experiencing. I am more aware of the needs of others, and best of all, I feel an increased closeness to the Spirit.
So, what task do you usually avoid? What is keeping you from it? How can you learn from it?