Inclement weather trapped us inside for a few days, and it was time for an adventure. The girls campaigned mightily for bowling as long as I bowled with them. So that’s how I found myself at the bowling center with both girls frustrated with me.
I had agreed to bowl with them, but secretly, I had plotted to return emails and organize a church event while they bowled and I participated halfheartedly. I was getting away with it, until Eve bowled a strike. She turned around, caught me with my eyes riveted on my phone and exclaimed, “You missed it. How could you miss it?! I bowled a strike. Mom!” Add preadolescent drama and eye rolling to the words, and you get the picture.
I knew what I had to do. I put the phone in my purse and participated with my girls. It sounds like a simple choice to put away the phone, but the running loop of tasks was not easily ignored. I was thinking about what needed to be done, who needed to be contacted, and what I had forgotten to defrost for dinner. With ball in hand, I took a deep breath as I approached the line and said, “Right now. All I am doing is bowling.” When I found myself adding more to the mental to do list, I reminded my brain, “All I am doing is bowling.”
Once I focused on bowling with Eve and Audrey, my shoulders relaxed, and we enjoyed our time together. But I had almost missed the moment.
There is a Zen saying, “Talk when you talk. Walk when you walk. Die when you die.” I am adding to the list, “Bowl when you bowl.” I have falsely convinced myself that I can do multiple tasks at once and all of them will get the attention they deserve. It is not true. My girls got angry with me when I tried to appease them with part of my attention after I had promised my full self. Not only do my relationships suffer but so does my spirit when I chase distractions rather than focus on the now. This desire to live in the now is called mindfulness or centering. Both Thomas Merton and Parker Palmer sought lives rich with being fully present and focusing on the moment at hand. Henry Thoreau said it like this,
In my walks, I would fain return to my senses.
What business have I in the woods
if I am thinking of something out of the woods?
– Thoreau –
Whether Zen or Thoreau, I am inspired to focus on what I am doing now and do it with attention and passion. When I succeed in being in the now, I see God’s grace and goodness in myself and the moment.
Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.