I had an interesting mindfulness “aha” moment today.
This morning was my annual oncology appointment. My doctor asked me “what do you do with your time?” People occasionally ask me that, and I hear “Just what *DO* you do with your time??!” as if I can hear them thinking “What the fuck does she do with her time?”
Anyway, I mulled this over in my head. “What *DO* I do with my time?” Meaning, “just exactly where the fuck is my life going?” For the past 2 1/2 years of retirement I’ve asked myself this every day. Even in my percocet-induced haze I would sit all day creating origami figures and wonder if doing that was somehow giving my life some sort of direction. Today, after my appointment, I logged into my World of Warcraft game and did some in-game fishing and cooking. After a bit, I surprised myself. I had the urge to go downstairs and begin working on our living room. We’d moved chairs out of the way and decided it would be my tai chi / meditation room. It’s been a messy, dusty, dirty meditation room. I’ve wondered what sorts of bugs crawl around on me when I lie down on the carpet to do my stretches at night.
Every day I’ve been thinking that I will do at least a little bit of something. Just enough to remind myself I’m still alive. I hope that by doing that, one day I’ll wake up and find myself being like everyone else in this world — get up, clean my house, go shopping, do charity work, join a club, work in the garden, go to church, etc. … well, no, not exactly. I’ll never be that person. But at least someone who gets up and has some sort of respect for her life.
Anyway, back to my point. I went downstairs and fired up the vacuum hubby had put in the meditation room for me. The carpet had not been vacuumed in perhaps 5 years or more, so required quite a few passes before the vacuum “dirty” light went off. After about 15-20 minutes of vacuuming, my back started hurting me as it does with nearly everything: cooking, washing dishes, cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming — it hurts when I do any of those things.
I began to think about it. Why does my back not hurt with 20 minutes of tai chi and yet it hurts with 20 minutes of vacuuming? I moved my mind into my body and observed it. In tai chi, if I extended my arm out, it wouldn’t just be my arm moving, but my entire body would flex and participate.
I pretended I was doing tai chi. I flexed my back when my arm extended out, and breathed deeply during the extension and return of my arm as I directed the vacuum.
All of a sudden, my vacuuming became a practice. I wasn’t vacuuming, I was doing tai chi.
And my back pain disappeared. Instead of putting the vacuum down and going upstairs to rest my back, I vacuumed a second piece of carpet, and some of the floor, and filled several bags with trash and paper.
Could the key to my actually doing something meaningful and pain-free in my life be held in bringing my meditation and tai chi practice into my everyday activities? So maybe I haven’t been doing anything “meaningful” with my time by other people’s standards, but maybe my daily meditation and tai chi have actually been providing me with something that will end up being profoundly meaningful by my own personal standards.