There are too many benefits to meditation to count, to list, to be comprehensive, but learning how to live in a way in which I am present in each moment is one of my favorites. Why? Well, there are almost as many reasons as there are benefits to meditation, but one of my favorites is “Joy Bubbles.”
Joy bubbles are something fantastic from nothing special. They come from a moment of presence in which you appreciate something fantastically ordinary. Yesterday, I was brewing tea for kombucha. The color of the tea, as I dissolved the sugar, was a beautiful reddish brown with perfect clarity and a feeling of depth that made me intensely happy for that moment, and several minutes after. Certainly, brewing tea is nothing out of the ordinary, and yet it was quite special, beautiful and satisfying.
Ten minutes before, I was having a conversation on the phone. Had I decided to multi-task and mix in the sugar while having a conversation, I would not have seen the tea. Or, I would not have listened to that moment of the conversation.
Certainly we all multi-task in our lives; sometimes there is just not enough time and there are too many things to do. I do it myself, though I don’t usually enjoy it. (I’m willing to bet you don’t enjoy it, either.) My joy bubbles are the result of two benefits of my meditation practice.
One: Most things really can wait. Sometimes indefinitely. Many times, they don’t even need to be on my to-do list. Most mornings I set aside 20 minutes each morning to sit and focus on my breath or mantra. (I’m not perfect either, as much as I’d like to meditate every day, I just don’t.) On mornings with a schedule, my inner voice often sounds like this… “I still need to shower and dry my hair and pack a lunch before I walk out the door today, and I really need to throw a load of laundry in the wash, and I need to not forget to bring that paperwork with me, and wouldn’t my time be better spent doing those things, because my time is disappearing while I sit here on the floor doing nothing… ”
If you have ever meditated, then this pattern probably sounds familiar. I’ve been practicing regularly for four years. I still hear this thought pattern at least once a week. But, even though I hear it, I don’t listen to it. I don’t (usually – hey, I’ve already said I’m nowhere near perfect!) usually react to it. And in not reacting, in telling myself “Yup, maybe, but right now, I’m doing this” and returning to my breath or mantra, I’ve learned that it really all can wait. The focus I have when I finish and stand up and start going through all those tasks lets me move with more ease and efficiency than when my mind was whirring, and there is more space in less time.
When that sense of “it can wait” expands into the rest of my life, there are a lot of “shoulds” that don’t ever seem to happen. And, after a few years of this, I see that the never-happening of those “shoulds” don’t actually have an impact on my life. The “shoulds” that needed to happen, did.
And in the space where those things don’t happen, I have instead the opportunity to fully focus on whatever I am doing, and experience it fully, without the pull of the thirty-seven other things I should be doing.
Two: Take time to notice. Just to notice. In meditation practice, I notice the quality of the breath, the tension in the body, the thoughts racing through the mind. Then I breathe some, and notice the changes to the quality of the breath, the tension in the body, the thoughts passing through the mind as you sit. Then I breathe some more, and notice all those things again, and how they change. Just notice. Just observe.
And when I finish my practice, and re-enter the busy flow of “doing stuff,” I continue to notice. Noticing is part of being present. When my focus is on my monkey mind chattering away, I don’t have space to notice what is around; I am multi-tasking, doing whatever task I am doing and listening to my mental chatter. I don’t have spare faculties to notice anything. But when I stop paying attention to that chatter, (which I can do because I’ve learned that pretty much everything it says can wait, indefinitely) I have attention that I can use to notice what is immediately present.
And from that attention often springs joy bubbles. The color of tea. The generosity of an acquaintance. The ease of a deep friendship. The quality of the sunlight filtering through the trees. The sound of insects living their lives. The daily growth of a vegetable in the garden. The smell of a recent rain. Everyday things, that are such a regular part of our lives that we don’t often notice them. Everyday things, each that offer us a spontaneous moment of pure joy, if we slow down long enough to notice them, to experience what each offers with our full presence. It only takes a moment.