By Karli Smith
My meditation teacher Jacqui talks about this thing we all do, every day, that distances us from the present moment. It stops us from connecting with the person in front of us. Our family members. Our pets. Our barista. The friend we’re out to brunch with. The supermarket check out person we give our money to. The people we pass on our morning run. The lonely child at a party. From connecting with ourselves and our feeling in that moment. She calls it ‘mashing’.
Walking down the street while texting. Thinking about the day ahead and not making eye contact with the barista when waiting for our coffee - it’s too early for conversation. Checking emails when you’re in a meeting. Doing some mobile banking while waiting for the check out person to finish scanning our shopping. Watching TV while reading the news on your laptop while responding to a text. Cooking dinner while talking to Mum on the phone while sweeping the floor. Checking Facebook while you wait for your friend to return from the bathroom at the restaurant. Uploading a photo to instagram as your child is trying to get your attention at your feet (guilty!). Being sad about something that happened while stuffing our face with chips/chocolate/icecream.
Mashing up activities. You know it, we all do it. Multi-tasking has somehow become a medal we proudly display in the workplace, at home, to our friends and family. Mulit-taskers 'Get Stuff Done' we say. But we’ve gone beyond multi-tasking. We’ve taken it to a whole new level. We are so often distracted from focussing on just ONE activity at a time that it has become the detriment to connection. It has weakened our Seeing. It has weakened our Being.
A few days after observing my quite spectacular mashing abilities, I met a friend for brunch at my local beach cafe. The deck sits right on the sand of the beach of Port Phillip Bay. So we’re sitting there out on the deck enjoying our food, coffee and conversation when my friend excuses herself to go to the bathroom. I automatically and blindly reached for my phone from my bag. How can I fill this time, what was I missing out on I thought - new emails? New posts? New pretty pictures? Missed calls? I quickly became aware of my action and stopped - put the phone back in my bag and lifted my gaze. And sat. Just sat, and waited for her to return. One thing at a time. I breathed in the salt air. I felt the gentle breeze on my face. I let the sun warmly kiss my skin. And sat. Just sat. And waited.
One thing at a time. I find myself constantly reminding myself to do it now. Just walk. Just drive. Just listen. Just watch. Just look at the person in front of me and acknowledge their existence. Connect with self. Connect with others. Connect with Stillness. Connect with the space between our thoughts and breath where the Kingdom of God resides in the Here and Now. And when I take the time to do it, it feels good - really good.
Eckhart Tolle observes, “You are never more essentially yourself than when you are still...You can sense yourself as Awareness… As the I AM Presence.” The I AM refers to God’s description of Godself in Exodus 3:14 when God says to Moses, “I am That I Am”. Tolle suggests that Jesus’ constant referral to the Kingdom of Heaven being here and now points to what he describes as the realm or dimension of spaciousness or stillness. A state of being where the mind subsides and one intrinsically knows oneself as essence, as the I AM Presence. As the God within. Perhaps this is what the writer of Acts is talking about in Acts 17:28, “In God I live and move and have my being”. This state of awareness, of being-ness, of stillness, of heaven-ness, is here and now. Within us.
Wow - that’s a huge concept right?! How on Earth do we get that within ourselves to realise this realm is right here, right now?
I watch my almost 1 year old daughter Zoe (ironically the Greek word for ‘Life’ or ‘Eve’ as in, the beginning of life) as she goes about her day picking up leaves, tasting sand, examining blades of grass, pointing to birds overhead with wonder, splashing water, standing in the bath without fear of slipping (lazy parenting?) eating food, breastfeeding, ‘talking’ with someone, patting (with quite some force) the cat. Zoe is not a masher. She’s got this one-thing-at-a-time thing absolutely down pat. She is not thinking about yesterdays’ scraped knee or tomorrow’s breakfast. She is fascinated with what unfolds before her eyes in every, single, moment. And that is all. She is utterly and truly in every moment. Only the present exists to her. She truly embodies what Khalil Gibran writes about in The Prophet, “and forget not that the Earth delights to feel your bare feet and the wind longs to play with your hair”.
So let’s stop mashing. Let’s notice how we feel when we wait. When we just cook. When we just listen without thinking about what we’ll say next. Noticing your stillness and your being doesn’t have to be something you go off into the woods to do (although that can be pleasant too!). It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Start by doing just one thing at a time. Start now. Start when you’re taking your next shower. Just be in the shower. Just notice the extraordinary ordinary-ness of every task and moment. Therein lies God.