My life used to be a very on again off again experience. It was like my life was on pause when I did routine tasks such as grocery shopping, doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, or paying bills. When these tasks were over, my real life would resume. These were commercial interruptions to the meaningful things of my life. As a result, I suffered through these tasks or, at best, endured them.
The reality is that our daily lives are often filled with routine tasks. And this was a problem for me because I didn’t like doing those things. Consequently, a large part of my daily life was joyless. I was doing things just to get them done. When these chores were done, then I would have a few hours left in the day when I could feel I was actually living my life.
My perspective changed dramatically, though, about six months ago when I read Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. And that book connected to something my AA sponsor said to me years ago.
In A New Earth, Tolle addresses the way many of us live fragmented lives. Life is not about what we are doing, Tolle says, but how we are doing it. Whenever we see what we are doing as an impediment to our real lives, we approach it with resistance. And that causes suffering. Reality conforms to our thinking, so what I dread becomes dreadful.
Oftentimes for me, I don’t integrate ideas, even powerful ones, into my life until I connect them with other powerful ideas. When they come together, it is an epiphany. And these are life-changing events for me. This happened while I was reading Tolle. I remembered my sponsor’s words to me. I was complaining about having to go home and mow the lawn. I had nearly lost my job, my wife, and my house because of my drinking. My sponsor said to me, “Instead of thinking that you have to mow the lawn, think that you get to mow the lawn. You are blessed to have a lawn to mow.” Those words got me through that task and many others for a while, but as time passed, I forgot them.
Then, as I was reading Tolle recently, my sponsor’s words came rushing back to me. As Tolle’s words and my sponsor’s words converged into an epiphany, their wisdom found a permanent place within me. Because I am no longer dying to my drinking, I get to do the tasks that are before me. That was what my sponsor was saying. Tolle takes it a step further. Don’t just do a task; pour your consciousness—your full attention—into it.
What I have discovered is that when I pour my consciousness into what I am doing, I immediately turn the stage lighting up on it. I become more and more aware of all the wonderful sensations involved in the task. For example, I used to hate grocery shopping. Now, I look forward to it. It’s because I have poured my consciousness into the present moment at the grocery store rather than thinking about what I could be doing instead.
Now when I am grocery shopping, I am in awe of all the produce that comes from so many different parts of the world, their vibrant colors, the wonderful smells of these fruits and vegetables, the appealing display of all these things. It’s really is a thing of beauty. But when I am resisting the shopping and withdraw my consciousness from the experience, it loses its luster and fades to drabness.
The key here is to pour your consciousness into whatever you are doing. And that begins by noticing. Notice the sights, the sounds, the smells, the texture of all the things associated with the task. Feel your body respond and delight in the work.
So how can you get your consciousness to pour into what you are doing? Tolle says there are three ways: acceptance, enjoyment, and enthusiasm.
Acceptance is the opposite of resistance to a task. And just moving from resistance to acceptance can be a life-changer. “Our performing an action in the state of acceptance means you are at peace while you do it; it is surrendered action,” says Tolle.
When we move from acceptance to enjoyment, the stage lighting turns up some more. We become more attuned and aligned with the task. We perceive what we are doing with a sense of joy. In a sense, we are consciously joined with the task. We are no longer just enduring it; it becomes what we want to keep doing.
This sense is further expanded and intensified when we move from enjoyment to enthusiasm. “Sustained enthusiasm brings into existence a wave of creative energy, and all you have to do then is ‘ride the wave.’” Tolle says.
Like all tasks in our lives, we have a choice about what attitude we bring to them. Whether we love or dread the task, we still need to do it. Why not choose to accept it and pour yourself into it? You may find that it becomes something that you enjoy—maybe even something that you become enthused about doing. And that can bring a great deal of joy to all the parts of your day.