“What are you doing right now?”

Every moment is a choice, and I’ve been choosing poorly. Here’s an example, and a practice that’s making a difference.

Dinner for six

I went to dinner with my five children this week. They range in ages from 5 to 20, so you can imagine what’s going on at the table. The youngest one is complaining he doesn’t like the food there. Two of them are on their phone. There are minor arguments about seating.

So…what would you guess I’m thinking about during dinner?

  1. Things the kid should/shouldn’t be doing.
  2. What happened at work during the day.
  3. Things I need to do.
  4. The taste of the food.
  5. The people around me.

What would you be thinking about?

A simple practice

I’m slowly learning that I have a choice. I could focus on what's wrong. I could distract myself by letting my mind wander. Or I could try to shift my attention to the miracles that are right in front of me, savoring what I’m doing and who I’m with.

Such a choice was captured in a short essay by the buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh titled “What are you doing?”

“One day as I walked through the kitchen, I saw someone cleaning vegetables and I asked, “What are you doing?” I was playing the role of a spiritual friend. Even though it was obvious that they were washing vegetables, I asked the question to wake the person up to how happy they could be just washing the vegetables. If we aren’t doing something with joy, that moment is wasted.”

What are you doing right now?

The number of choices each day

The buddhist Shōbōgenzō text from the 13th century described just how many moments we have each day.

“There are sixty-five moments within the time it takes for someone to snap his fingers…in the passing of a single day and night there are sixty-four hundred million, ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and eighty moments.”

I am not mindful of almost all of these moments. But I’m trying to change that. I know that if I can be present for more moments each day, my life can be fuller, and I can experience more joy.

Throughout the day, you can be your own spiritual friend by asking yourself, “What am I doing right now?”

Wake up to how happy you could be.