December 9, 2011

The antidote to having a million things to do

Fiona writes: Sip. Sip. I’m drinking hot earl grey as I type, brought up by my husband. I glance up from the computer screen at the Christmas lights we’ve draped around the room. A thousand tiny pinpricks of light, pulsing on and off like stars in ultra-fast motion.

Sip. There are a million things to do. Christmas cards to write, presents to wrap, the house to clean, articles to write, email to be dealt with. Kittens to be rescued from the top of wardrobes (Roshi has developed a penchant for climbing up but he doesn’t know how to get back down again).

Sip. Sip.

I look at the small grey stone Buddha across from me, sitting in perfect equanimity. I see a triangle of pale sky, and remember how much warmer it is in here (with our wonderful central heating) than it is out there.

There are always a million things to be done.

We need to get on and do them. And we also need to appreciate the heat of tea in our mouths. We need to gaze at our twinkling Christmas lights. We need to stop and stroke our purring kitten, even though we’re just on our way to hanging out the washing.

“It’s possible, in a poem or short story, to write about commonplace things and objects using commonplace but precise language, and to endow those things—a chair, a window curtain, a fork, a stone, a woman’s earring—with immense, even startling power.” ~Raymond Carver

Carver is speaking about writing here. I like to think that he is also speaking about living. We can experience the objects around us in an ordinary way, or we can suddenly marvel at the rich complexity and simple beauty of a chair, a curtain, a fork. A cup of tea. A triangle of pale winter sky.

* Photo by Harold Lloyd, used with permission via Creative Commons (with gratitude).

* To practice mindful living during January, have a look at our mindful writing challenge.

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