My daughter is grown and gone, married now and thinking about having kids of her own (if the stupid army would ever let her husband come home).
But sometimes often she comes to the house to do her laundry. Which is why, last week, I ended up down the basement folding a large load of clothes from the dryer, which needed to be done before I could do my own laundry.
I will admit, I was feeling the wee-est bit resentful.
But then I started thinking about when she was a baby and I washed diapers. (Yes, Virginia, there was a day when women washed their own diapers.) A friend–older, wiser, and more experienced as a mother–had told me how much she loved doing laundry for her four children, folding the soft, white diapers, the tiny onesies, the little pink and blue sleepers. So every time I started to get bored or cranky about doing laundry back then, I'd remember her words and try to pull myself back into it by focusing on the good parts of the task.
My friend was very Zen, though she didn't know it and actually considered herself a born-again Christian. But being where you are, appreciating it, and staying present, is all very Zen, as I have learned and continue to learn from my Zen friend Derek.
My best writing times are Zen, too. I'm constantly working to find the magic key to being present, staying in the flow, and deal with distractions (ie, ignore them). I find it easy to be totally engaged when I'm doing my own work, less so when I'm working on assignments for others. But it is imperative that I find ways to focus and be present no matter what I'm doing. So here are some of the tricks I've learned:
1. Shut down all inboxes. This will allow you to resist the urge to check email, just real quick, and see if anybody has written you. Which then leads to the even more irresistible urge to answer them. And by the time you've answered them, yet another one has come in…You may also wish to put your phone on silent and close the office door.
2. Set an intention. Sit quietly for a few moments (see below) and focus on what you want to accomplish. Ponder what this will take, or review your notes before you launch in.
3. Meditate or breathe deeply for a few minutes before launching into a writing session. This can clear your mind and allow you to begin refreshed. You can also do a written meditation and get the dreck out on the page
4. Set a time limit. Dave Lakhani talks about the power of an hour, the idea being that you set aside an hour, eliminate all distractions, set your intention to write, set a timer, take a deep breath and dive in for the duration. Short, focused bursts of writing can really get the job done.
5. Keep a notepad or a stack of index cards beside your computer to jot ideas down. Then, when you get a flash of brilliance, you can make a quick note of it to peruse later. This also prevents you from stopping in the middle of what you are doing and googling your latest idea, which can then lead to a lengthy distraction through the internet.
6. Buy a brain entrainment CD which can help you stay focused. I like the ones here.
7. If your attention wavers, bring yourself back with a quick breathing exercise you've figured out ahead of time (say, take three deep breaths) or a statement. One I've used successfully is, "Spirit come back to me, I need you here with me now." A bit odd, I know, but I got it from a Christiane Northrup newsletter years ago and I've always liked the ring of it.
8. Take breaks. Do an hour and then get up and move. I know I'm guilty of becoming one with the computer and sitting for so long that my knees creak and all my muscles complain when I finally do get up. Much better for mind and body to move regularly.
Those are my tricks for finding Zen states in writing. Anybody have any others?