We were measuring the width of the driveway with one of those tape measures that’s housed in a metal box. I was holding one end while my partner pulled the box-end to the other side of the driveway. She tried to lock it in place but the locked slipped, the metal box snapped out of her hand, and just as she yelled, “Watch out,” the box flew across the driveway and took a small bite out of my thumb. Of course it stung but we were both surprised to see blood sliding down to my wrist. I went inside to clean it up and put a small bandage on it.
After we picked crook-necked squash in the afternoon, I saw the bandage was blood-soaked. Had the pressure of grabbing the squash opened it up again? I kept a bandage on it for yoga class the next day fearing the pressure of down dog, as I followed instructions to press my thumbs and forefingers into the mat, would force it open again. But yoga was not a problem. However, turning a doorknob or a key in the ignition, writing with a pen and pulling up my pants all put pressure on that exact spot. It hurt so much I began to wonder if it was infected. It was not. It was just insistently and persistently present.
Banged knees, stubbed toes, and barked shins—our days are full of risks to our body; risks that remind us that we live in a body and that body is vulnerable. As my mindfulness practice grows, bumping into a doorframe or tripping on the stairs is often followed by the observation that prior to the bump or trip, my mind and my body were in two different places. It’s been years since I believed the hype about multitasking but that doesn’t stop me from allowing my mind to be in a thousand different places while I unsuccessfully navigate my body through one place.
For the better part of a week the little cut on my thumb forced me into the present Again and again it demanded that I pay attention to what I was doing with my mind and body. The cut is nearly healed but the tiny scar that remains signals my intention to bring my full self to each task, each interaction, each activity. It also signals a further intention. When I am unable or unwilling to give my full attention, I will ask myself, “Why am I participating in this task, this interaction, this activity?”
When do you find yourself partially engaged in multiple activities, giving your full attention to none of them?
If you haven’t done this lately, try watching television without checking your phone. Or reverse it and look at your phone without the television on in the background. What do you notice when you focus on one thing at a time?