Meditating While You Work

It makes a change from whistling - and while whistling while you work is often a good thing, meditating may well be better, both for you and for the work.
It's really fascinating the way we seem to keep learning the same lessons over and over - until we finally get it really truly deep down. Whoever is in charge of all this seems to be endlessly patient. Eileen Herzberg phoned me to say she was planning to run a meditation course and to discuss a few ideas she had about it. 'First, I'll do what you do,' she said blithely, 'and start them off with an inner journey to meet their inner meditation teacher.'
I pointed out that I had never met my inner meditation teacher, but that it was a really brilliant idea and wished I had thought of it. After a brief muddle while we sorted out whose idea it really was (Eileen's, of course), we went on to discuss how best to set the scene for the inner journey she planned. While we were doing that I took a inward brief peek at my own inner meditation teacher. The image that flashed up was of a very tiny, very upright, very old oriental lady with a face as brown and wrinkled as a walnut and bright, bright black eyes. I knew as soon as I saw her that I'd better come back later and listen to what she had to say, and so I did.

      Old Mama Li, she said to me,
      Look, kid, you've got
      to get your act together.
      What you're doing is OK, but
      there is so very much
      more to be done. For starters, let's
      Keep It Simple, Sweetheart. Choose
      one task each day, and do it
      as a meditation. It's all
      very well, even
      necessary, to Sit
      in meditation, to rest into the silence when
      healing is happening, and it's
      not that hard to do
      when you are building
      a dam in the burn, or painting, or walking
      in the hills - doing something
      quiet and fun - but
      there is much more to it than
      that. Meditation has to happen
      all the time. Don't try
      to do this all at once, don't try
      to go too fast. For a while,
      take just one task a day. In time, this
      will give you the place to stand
      so you can move the earth -
      if you are silly enough
      to want to.
She suggested that I start with getting out my little leaflets on courses the next day. That, she said, would give me plenty to practice on. She knows how very much I dislike doing those mailings - hundreds of leaflets to collate, hundreds of leaflets to fold, hundreds of leaflets to put in envelopes and seal, hundreds of mailing labels to put on, hundreds of stamps to stick down, hundreds of return address labels to put on. Arrrgh. Boring!
The next day, I tried to focus on my breath while I worked on the mailing, but I kept getting muddled about what I was doing. Then I tried to work in time with my breath, but it was so slow - and I found my breath going faster and faster - or my hands racing while I didn't breathe at all. My usual way of trying to get through a distasteful task is to rush madly at it, and I kept finding myself sitting on the edge of the chair, panting.
I felt so frustrated! I'd thought this would be so easy, but I couldn't seem to do it at all. I even caught myself thinking that I ought to be able to do it; this should not be a problem for me. I was messing up on something I ought to be able to do easily. When I caught myself 'oughting' and 'shoulding' myself I stopped. I 'ought' not to be doing that either!
I just sat there with a page in each hand, almost in tears of frustration. For a while I simply focused on my breathing with some vague idea of getting a running start at stability that way. Finally I asked for help. Why does it so often take so long to remember to ask?
The answer came at once - focus on the energy of the task. It has its own natural rhythm and focus. Find it.
A rhythm established itself as soon as I stopped trying to do something: collate while connecting myself and the leaflet with the earth, center while folding the pages, put it in the envelope while connecting with the Source, seal it while filling it with healing energy. This was easy.
Gradually the understanding grew in my mind - each leaflet should have it's own connection with the earth and the Source, its own healing energy, and this could be available to anyone who touched it, if they wanted and were open to it. Because each one had its own connections, it would constantly be brimming over with healing energy, more than enough for everyone who might need/want it along the way. Some of the envelopes might be reused and carry the energy even further. And what will happen if the paper is recycled? Hmmm. Like ripples from a stone thrown in a pond, out to the edges of the universe and back. What fun!
Then the mailing labels - each one went on with a friendly energy 'hello' to the addressee. The stamps each had a smile attached, and the return address labels each went on with a wash of 'love you' from me.
Before long I was out of mailing labels. I scurried around the house to see if I could find any more names and addresses on scraps of paper so I could do some more - it was such fun! When I realized what I was doing, I had to laugh at myself. I went off to the post office with bags of energized leaflets, smilingly stamped.
When I got to the post office, there were hordes of people waiting, and the clerks were all working frantically. By the time I reached the counter, the clerk I came to had an obvious headache, a scowl on his face, and a fierce impatience with the world. Besides the leaflets, I had several fiddly things to do - letters to the States and other places, each to be weighed and postage calculated individually. You could see him getting more and more impatient as I handed him one thing after another. Finally, handing him the bags containing the hundreds of leaflets, I said, "And this is the last." He touched them - and stopped.
For a moment he just stood there. Then he turned and slowly put them in the big mail bags a few envelopes at a time. He came back to me with a cheerful smile spread across his face. "There," he said, "that's a job well done, isn't it?"
I was quite taken aback - it was actually working. Up until then I suppose I had just thought it was a game for me to play by myself. Now I realized that it was something that could spread out, like the glittering ripples on a pond.

So, what did I do the next day? I forgot. Didn't remember to do it at all. And the day after as well. Then I chose things I didn't want to do at all for my special task and just didn't do them. There is obviously a big resistance to enjoying the boring, tedious, mundane things of life. What would one have to complain about? Procrastination wouldn't be any fun if one were procrastinating on having fun. And I can't scold myself because that is getting trapped in my oughts and shoulds again, so I really can't just indulge in feelings of guilt or remorse instead of actually doing something.
The only thing left is either to do the working meditation thing or not to do it at all and just let it go - but it feels so silly not to do it. I hate to feel silly. It may provide a bit of harmless amusement for the Otherworld folk, but I'd rather not. 'Undignified' I have no problem with, but 'silly' is just too much. The thing that has become a regular practice is to have a good laugh at myself as I review my day, just before I go to sleep.

Okay. I wrote the above in 1994. This is 2001. I'm just recovering from a prolonged bout of pneumonia and am taking this opportunity to reformat and update my disorganized web pages, which have gradually become all helter-skelter. I can do this on my laptop while I technically stay in bed, as instructed. And now, I'm thinking about how I can apply this to healing myself. What can I do while confined here - besides my regular meditation and self-healing?
I have recovered to the point where I can go down and up the stairs once a day, and I've learned to pause on each step and take two healing breaths. And to take five minutes worth of healing breaths on the landing. This way I don't collapse before the top. (At first, I unconsciously held my breath as I tried to hurry up the stairs before I collapsed. Needless to say, that didn't work well. But I can't do the stairs very often. This doesn't seem much of a task to apply this technique to. So, it seems that there isn't much I can be doing with it...
But wait! I'm working on these pages. How can I incorporate meditation/self healing into this? Well, breath seems very important just now. Pneumonia messes that up. So perhaps I could incorporate breathing consciously and in a healing way into this somehow. I'm going to try something for a few minutes...

Ah, yes. I just need to stop at the end of every paragraph and breathe in healing energy for a few breaths. Three slow ones feels about right. It changes the whole energy of what I'm doing. Instead of getting a feeling of self-induced pressure, I feel tranquility. I smile while I work. That alone tells me it is right. So. I shall stop here and do another page. I hope you enjoy doing this as much as I do.

Copyright © 1994 & 2001 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.
This originally appeared in Crann Beathadh, 1994.

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