Happiness and Presence from the every day

Creative Commons license courtesy Paul Jarvis

Creative Commons license courtesy Paul Jarvis

I heard an interesting exercise the other day and decided to try it out.

Make a list of some every day things you do that seem rather tedious or boring, such as doing laundry, going to the bank, or driving. Don’t include things that you absolutely hate, because those are for working on acceptance.

Now, while you ae engaged on those every day mundane activities, try to turn up your awareness. See if you can be fully present instead of being on auto-pilot.

This is the opposite of what the efficiency-expert Frank Gilbreth advocated. You know, the father of modern corporate efficiency & motion-studies. (Picture white-suited wonks with clipboards and video cameras standing behind a long row of disengaged factory automotons)  He’s the inspiration (?) behind the film Cheaper By The Dozen (1950 version and 2003 version, both based a book written by Gilbreth’s son and daughter.

Robert Heinlein paraphased Gilbreth with his character Lazarus Long, his Methuselah, having him say: “Minimize your therbligs until it becomes automatic; this doubles your effective lifetime — and thereby gives you time to enjoy butterflies and kittens and rainbows.”

This is the completely opposite approach to presence & awareness, missing an important point.

Gilbreth & Heinlein would have us numb out a big part of our life, undervaluing anything that seems repetitive. Sure, it’s great to enjoy butterflies, kittens and rainbows. However, why miss out on so much more?

The upshot? The exercise works great! Turning up awareness for the mundane is already bringing a richer intensity to my life. Less often, I’m wandering around lost in thought of some other place and time. Really, a simple yet powerful practice.

Try it out for yourself and see!

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