I guess I’ve come back around to choice and focus. There is the ‘big picture’ and there are the details. Our small lives, in terms of the Cosmos (a bunch of Whos in Whoville, I’d say, with millions of new galaxies recently ‘discovered’) and the big world wrapped around me.
Attending to details is a fairly clear description of my daily life. I notice things, those that are awry, like the placement of a rug or particular object in the house and also the quiet details of the way a cat holds its paw when it sleeps or a leaf dangles on a tree branch outside my window. Perhaps this is another benefit of being a slow person, but I cannot entirely dismiss the OCD element of needing things to be a certain way. I crave and need routine, regularity and the illusion of control. Not the healthiest of psychological profiles and also not the worst. Given a choice, I will stay as I am, which in effect proves the point.
Is it okay to be distracted by the thickness of the carpet of fallen leaves in the yard? Is it okay to fight against the distraction of the many unkindnesses unfurling around me? Paying attention (ah, I return, unwittingly, to the metaphorical link between money and time…), paying attention is an active choice and distraction happens to me. Is that true?
Buddhist philosophy would have me pay attention to the annoyance of distraction. To sit with it and the feelings that have been provoked… Like the drone of leaf blowers from a neighboring yard that are pushing headache buttons at my temples.
Yes, attention and distraction take place in my body, nestling into familiar locations, maybe mostly into my head or my heart? When I visually sink into that thickness of fallen leaves or dangle from the twig beside that fluttering red leaf, something good happens in my body. It may be the release of some hormonal chemical.
When I attend to the mechanical whine of those leaf blowers, some other physical surge happens, my muscles tense (which may be a cause or an effect of the chemicals being released) and my temper becomes short. Okay, now there is a fascinating expression: short-tempered. What the heck is the opposite, long-tempered? I know, its probably called ‘patience’, but is the implication that our temper (a contraction of temperament, perhaps?) is always present? Is the fuse always waiting to be ignited and the idea of having a short fuse describes… what?
Attention and distraction. I’m not sure if what I am writing, through the incessant sound of those leaf blowers, is articulate. I recall the scratching, ‘scritching’ and rhythmic sound of leaf raking from the days when raking was the only way to remove leaves from the grass. The rakes had metal tines (tines, like a fork?) and when used on a hard surface, sidewalk or driveway, there was a distinctive scraping sound. But even on the lawn, there was a delicious rustling sound.
And that was if you were only listening to the raking. When you were the raker, there was a surround sound/sensation effect. The smell of dried leaves is potent and you were drenched in it. Your arms ached after a while, reaching time after time to pull another swath of leaves. And there was the choice of technique… to build piles, to create rows. Usually the weather was chill and unless you wore well-padded gloves, blisters were almost inevitable.