Tuesday, 20 March 2012

And not concentrating

After I had been thinking about concentrating yesterday, this morning I found myself not concentrating.

When I make my porridge in the morning I take one of the Japanese teacups down from the shelf for a measure.

In parenthesis: I am trying to avoid the word “use”.  I intensely dislike the idea of “using” anything.  I caught myself just now about to say “I use one of the Japanese teacups as a measure.”  And then again, when I stopped on the verge of saying “I don’t like using the word ‘use’.”
At his community in Plum Village, periodically in the course of the day a bell rings, and at the meeting for meditation it’s customary in the Buddhist way to start with the ring of a bell.  Thich Nhat Hanh describes this as “inviting the bell to sound”; I love that.  To regard even inanimate objects with respect, and encounter them as though they were living beings, is skilful means in my eyes.

Not “use”, then.

So anyway, I place into a milk-pan one cupful of rolled oats from Scotland, about a third of a small teaspoon of salt from our own sea here in St Leonards (hooray!), one cupful of soya milk, and two cupfuls (cupsful?) of Oatly (oat milk).  Then I cook them until they are porridge.

When we chucked out all our sugar a week or so back I ate the porridge without my customary sprinkling of sugar, and discovered to my surprise I really liked it without.  Then we all fell off the wagon (sigh: so soon!) and I went back to putting some sugar on my porridge.  But after two mornings of this I noticed something.  I didn’t actually want the sugar on my porridge at all, I was just having it because I could – defiance in the face of hardened oughteries – in spite of the fact I preferred it without.  This has to be a manifestation of insanity!  Because I noticed, I stopped.  Because I stopped, I didn’t feel the need for a cup of tea with my porridge.  Tea and sugar are evil twins in my life; always found together.  If I can’t have the tea I don’t want the sugar.  If I can’t have the sugar I don’t want the tea.  If I have them both I think they’re delicious, but they make me feel really . . . really . . . t i r e d . . .

Not what you want at breakfast time.

But I digress.

So anyway this morning I had to face the first challenge of the day: opening a new carton of Oatly and a new carton of soya milk.  “Oh, here we go – I hate this!” I was thinking to myself.  The Oatly has to be very well shaken up or it’s all strange and watery, and the soya milk has to be shaken too.  Neither can be shaken successfully before being opened, and when opened but full there’s a risk of spilling soya milk liberally everywhere when shaking it, if the fit on the little cap isn’t good.  Plus the sealing tabs are so darn fiddly to get off.  So I was grouching about this and muttering in my soul when suddenly I realised that in so doing I had stopped concentrating. 

If I concentrate, things aren’t a nuisance (well, all right, some things are but not opening new cartons of plant milk).

If I concentrate, I feel peaceful in my body in the task of opening the little tabs with care to make a successful job of it.  I enjoy the teacup in its beautifulness.  I shake up the carton thoroughly and enjoy the milk pouring out in the right consistency.  I enjoy being there and doing that thing.

Why it makes me cross is because I let my mind go galloping on to the next stage – cooking the porridge – and get impatient with the first stage of opening and shaking and measuring and pouring.  So I get scattered and the present task harasses me because I am actually somewhere else in the future cooking porridge and don’t want to be distracted from that by the inconvenient present.

Because I noticed this, I remembered to come back to now – where else is there to be, really, after all?  And then I enjoyed it all, in a happy contented sort of way.  And because I had noticed I didn’t actually want any sugar (yes – how could that be?), I didn’t want any tea either, and none of that was a struggle and I didn’t have to cope with that dragging weariness end-of-the-world or at least end-of-my-life feeling that follows on the heels of ingesting the evil combination of tea and sugar.

In case you should conclude I am reaching a pinnacle of rarified dietary purism, let me tell you that I did have a cup of tea and a cinnamon biscuity thing that has sugar on it this afternoon.

But this was not meant to be about tea and sugar really, but about concentrating and not concentrating, so let’s not dwell on the evil twins more than absolutely necessary.


365 366 Day 80 – Tuesday March 20th   
(if you don’t know what I’m talking about, see here)   

Oh, boots!  I have two flat sturdy pairs of boots for striding about in, and two more ladylike pairs with low heels (one black pair, one brown) for when I have a momentary Aspiration To Elegance.  That seemed enough, really.  Because I have massive feet it’s hard to get shoes, so I tend to clutch compulsively onto any that seem to fit.  These did, so I bought them.  They simply duplicated another category already supplied.  I hope they managed to find some other lady with massive feet to wear them.


Buzzfloyd said...

This reminds me of what Dad said to me about boredom. As well as saying that being bored or not bored is a choice, he told me that, when choosing to be interested, I should pay close attention to the thing I am observing, and that this would preclude boredom. As you know, he is a master of paying very close attention to boring things!

It makes sense that this should apply to irritation as well as boredom. It's all a form of impatience, isn't it?

Regarding the habit of sugar, I don't know about you, but I find that my OCD tendencies mean that sometimes I get caught up in following rules that I have created, even if they are contrary to my actual desires and needs. If, for instance, I have concluded that it is more efficient or economical to have a meal a certain way, I sometimes find it hard to deviate from that, even if I actively want it a different way, because my mental rule says to do it the 'correct' way.

Julie B. said...

I don't know why, but this post of yours made me chuckle. "Massive feet" and not using "use" and the delightful labyrinth your thoughts often follow....you should be a writer, Ember. I think I would read your books if you were.

Ember said...

:0) I think he and I learned a lot of things together, at the same time from the same people.

Ember said...

Sorry Julie - the above comment was in reply to what Buzz said - your comment was hidden in my Gmail stack.

I'm so glad it made you laugh! My sense of humour is by no means understood by or even apparent to all! xx

Rapunzel said...

I understand your opinionating over the use of the word Use. It does sound a bit like "took advantage of" sometimes.
On the other hand, maybe things (household items and such) like to be made useful. I know I do.

Here in the states tv presenters and business people have gotten in the habit if saying Utilize instead of use. As in: In "I utilized the house key to open the front door." "I utilized a canvas bag to avoid being given a plastic one." I think it sounds as daft as all those people who go on about how important it is to 'push the envelope' and who like to think they're 'Living on the edge' (of reason presumably). Trying to sound smart is what my parents generation used to call it.
Happily this form of non-communication hasn't infected my loved ones.
Nevertheless semantics is my favorite sport.

Ganeida said...

lol Coffee & sugar are my evil twins. When I send them into exile [as I do periodically] they retaliate by punishing me with migraines & tummy upsets. I should simply behead them & be done with it but I am simply too fond of them to make that unkindest of cuts.

A lot of my life is made up of dull momments: travelling on the ferry; travelling in the car; waiting, waiting, waiting. It is whya vibrant inner life is absolutely compulsory & a good book always travels with me. ☺

Ember said...

:0) LOL Rapunzel - indeed!

Yes, Ganeida - I panic a bit if I haven't got something to READ at such times! x