A long time ago I had a friend, and we would talk about “being in the flow.“ We both understood the concept and marveled at how wonderful it was when the stars aligned and you wound up in that sweet spot. Life is good, especially in those moments.
When you’re in the flow, you hit every traffic light green. You don’t even have to stop. Time slows down, and you get to answer the email or the text without being interrupted umpteen times. When you’re running errands, all the stops seem to line up in geographical order so that you’re always making right turns instead of trying to cross two lanes of traffic at a busy time of day.
This happened the other day. I was in the flow. There was no multitasking at all. There was no need for it. I completed one task at a time with seeming ease and smoothly moved onto the next task. By the end of the day my extensive to do list was completed with each item having been satisfyingly checked off.
But it was both good and bad. First the good: it was an amazing feeling, and I had a little insight into why and how the day had gone so well. I was present for each thing, and just for that one thing at that one time. I was present all day, and for each and every part of my day. I think the fact that I had recognized it made me even more present. I reveled in the feeling that all is right with the world, and I was soaking it all in. Could this be what enlightenment feels like? I’ve never dreamed that it was even possible, but this felt pretty good.
On the other hand however, it was bad: it set me up for a great fall. Because I had done so well living in the moment the day before, I felt I had the solution, and it was simple. But it was not meant to be. First, I hit a red light. Oh well, I told myself. It gave me time to appreciate my surroundings as I waited to go on my way. But then I hit more lights, and the grocery store didn’t have what I went for, and my phone started blowing up and dinging every five seconds with a blasted group chat.
I came home and was in the kitchen, and I burned my hand on a pan. As I was rushing to get some aloe on it, I knocked over a glass of water and spilled it everywhere.
Do you remember the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie? It’s the cute story of if a mouse that shows up and you give him a cookie. And if you give him a cookie, he’ll ask for some milk, and if you give him some milk, he’ll want a straw. On and on it goes in the cutest way possible.
It’s called a circular tale because at the end it comes full circle right back to where you started. It’s kind of what my day felt like. I had devolved down some crazy trail of bad luck caused by not paying attention, and then I continued to not pay attention because of my bad luck. I tried to refocus. After all, I knew the solution - pay attention, be present. But as hard as I tried, I got distracted time and again.
Maybe “knowing” is only part of the solution? Maybe enlightenment is two steps forward and twenty-three back?