As Buddhists, we are often urged to live in the moment, to experience one-pointed concentration on an object, to really experience washing the dishes, putting one foot before the other as we walk, or doing any other mundane task. So, it was particularly disheartening, after so many years of living—or trying to live—my life mindfully, to discover that, once I recovered from the heightened fear of the losing those I love, losing my livelihood, others being ill, the hardest thing about this time is the loss of routine. I had never realized how much of my life was lived on autopilot.
When I travel, I am searching for this very experience—every moment uncertain, from brushing my teeth and finding my morning coffee, to interacting with someone whose expectations of me are unknown to me. But travel is chosen, prepared for, and has a known end. It seems now we are perpetually travelling with no end in sight, just new challenges to our norms.
I find myself craving routine and curating opportunities to fly on autopilot, just to create a few moments of mindlessness. The desire makes me feel vaguely guilty as if I am failing as a Buddhist. I should want to be fully experiencing every moment. Then, I am reminded that always being uncertain is not the same as living in the moment. We can be mindful while also wanting to know the expected outcome of a given task or what needs to be done in a given moment.
Try this: choose a twenty-minute period (less or more is fine). For the time allotted, don’t try to get things done, prepare, get ready. Just watch each thing you do. Do only one thing at a time. If you make coffee, make coffee. Don’t turn on the water to boil and forget about it as you wander in to check your email, come back, and set up your coffee maker. No, watch the water boil, savour each moment as you make your morning cup. Sit down and drink it, enjoying each swallow. Don’t pick up a book, your phone, turn on the TV, just allow yourself to experience your daily task fully, without judgement or expectation. Tomorrow try something else—dental hygiene can be riveting.