At one of the intersections at the university I attend, there is a sign that says, “Think! Accidents are avoidable.”
A few weeks ago, I burned myself badly–a burn that resulted in a lot of pain, blisters, a trip to urgent care, and skin that has (thankfully) mostly healed, but is still red in the spot that got the worst of it. The accident happened while I sitting in the passenger seat of my aunt’s car. I was taking some time off, but thought it was important to be part of a conference call for work. So, my aunt drove me about 10 miles until my phone could get reception. The nearby coffee shop was packed, so I decided to take the call from the car. My aunt went inside and, after a few minutes, delivered a steaming hot cup to tea to me. The tea was on the dash of the car, the phone to my ear, and the laptop across my thighs. After about 5 minutes on the call, I lost reception, so after a few failed attempts to reconnect, I started an email to my colleagues to let them know what happened. I shifted in my seat a bit and the top of my laptop sent the cup full of tea flying–scalding hot water splashed across my wrist, seeping in and though the sleeves of my jacket, and finally landed on the side of my leg and across the keyboard of my laptop.
I frantically turned the laptop upside down, hoping the water would exit it as quickly as it entered, and made a dash for the restroom of the coffee shop to run my terribly burned wrist under cold water.
This was a painful lesson in mindfullness. I could have looked at the placement of the tea and anticipated that an accident may result. And so it goes with many things in life. In a hurry to meet a friend the other day, I had way too many things in my hands. I dropped my wallet and the contents scattered across the ground, slowing me down considerably.
In his recent LA Times review of books about slowing down writer Nick Owchar had this to say about Thich Naht Hahn’s You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment:
“This book, slender as a breviary, elegantly describes the very act of breathing as an art, and he shows us ways to apply our full concentration, our ‘mindfulness,’ to everything we do during the day–walking, sitting, driving your car (‘the red light is not your enemy,’ he assures), drinking a cup of tea. The point of all this, in the end, is to measure the depth of one’s commitment to that moment. ‘When you are holding a cup of tea in your hand, do it while being 100 percent there,’ he advises. Maybe if you did, you wouldn’t spill so often.”
I went to Deer Park Monastery for a weekend retreat in February. Along one of the paths was a sign that read, “Before you start, stop.