When it gets this busy, one thing I see about myself is … well, I lose sight of myself actually. I lose all sense of myself. I get frustrated, panicked, irritated, anxious. I make mistakes, get down on my friends, lose sight of what’s important. None of it’s a pretty sight.
I was looking this morning at what it is I’m overlooking. What is it that’s essential to remember at a time like this?
I was watching my attention and seeing that it was going to everything I needed to do. I was trying to get everything done in the futile hope that, everything being done, there would be nothing more to do. But things don’t work that way – these days or perhaps any days. Everything being done, there’s always more to do. Work multiplies to fill the space I give to it.
And that was the key for me. Just before I keeled over from trying to do so many things at once, as I was heading for the floor, metaphorically speaking, the penny dropped.
Everything depended on what I gave my attention to.
At that moment, before my metaphorical face hit the metaphorical floor, I hung on to my attention and just gave it to what was in front of me. What was in front of me was my wife speaking as we had breakfast at a restaurant and for the next half hour I just held my attention on what she said, even though a hundred things competed for it.
And I got that all there was to do was to manage my now. I really only have that now. Then, whether past or future, is not in front of me. Only now is.
And I resolved from that moment on not to be driven by what needs to be done then, but only by what I can do now. I can see it’s a discipline but one that I want to practice and learn.
Surprisingly, the whole feeling of being close to living death disappeared. I was in the eye of the storm and everything was calm. And I remembered hearing about U Ba Khin and how he managed several government departments while being a consummate Vipassana meditator and at last I understood how he could possibly do that. By remaining in his now and managing his attention so it always remained simply here.
I’m conducting a radical experiment for the next short while. No matter what it takes, no matter whom I offend, I’m only managing my now. I’m maintaining a rigorous independence of my then. Not worrying about yesterday or today, not thinking of what comes next or how many hours I have in a day. Things will only get quicker and multiply in the weeks and months ahead so there’ll be no relief from the volume of things to do. But there will be relief from worry if I just manage my attention by focussing on the now.