Brushing teeth. Drinking a glass of water. Washing hands. Making a pot of soup. Life is made of small things like these. Isn’t it a pity to perform them mechanically, thinking of other things? To do them just because we have to do them?
For most of my life, I went on doing these things and countless others more or less like an automaton.
I brushed my teeth because I was told it’s good for my teeth. I drank water because I was thirsty. I washed my hands because I had touched things outside. I made soup because I needed to eat.
These small things filled the gaps between the have-to-dos and the want-to-dos. Same as with the footsteps that I made from home to the mailbox, to the bank, to the park. Same as with each breath I took in between things, not even realizing I was breathing.
But then I found myself confronted by the possibility of my mortality. When you find yourself waiting before the doctor’s office, you pause and you think, and small things like that gain a new weight, a new importance.
A process of enjoying the little things began for me then. Of being aware of them as I did them, of not thinking about other things, not letting my mind wander.
Brushing your teeth can be a pleasant experience, a nice way to start the day. You need a good toothbrush and the right toothpaste flavor, I grant. But if you get these, you de-mechanize the act.
Drinking a glass of water in the morning on an empty stomach can be a good enough reason to want to get up from the bed–even if the world is shattering around you.
Washing your hands doesn’t have to be only a must-do in the age of the Coronavirus. It can be a way to enjoy the soft touch of the soap on your skin, a way to appreciate your hands while they are young and strong.
Making a pot of soup can be a another form of meditation that encourages serenity and peacefulness. Without crossed legs or abstention.
Or it can be a way to vent your anger on those carrots and onions. If you’re fully present as you cut them, you’re there, and the act becomes what you need it to be at that moment.
Our days are built of small things. Like Lego blocks, these small habits and must-dos give shape to our lives. It’s a pity to do them thinking of other things. Granted, sometimes we do have to think of other things. Or we just can’t help it.
But we can be fully present in these acts. We can use our toothbrush, our water glass, our pot of soup, our footsteps as cues to return to ourselves, to fold our thoughts back into our mind and float on the gentle air-sea of our breathing.
It takes but a moment, and it feels wonderful.
Try it sometimes.
Brush your teeth not with your hand, but with all of yourself, and at the same time without any effort, like it’s the most natural thing in the world. All it takes is to become aware of what you are doing.
“Be present in all things and thankful for all things.”― Maya Angelou