Mind and Mindfulness

With the power out in the barn and temperatures well below freezing,
I’m not sure which I miss more:  NPR or heated buckets.

NPR keeps my mind company while I do the hour or so of chores entailed in keeping goats and chickens in winter (having dried off the milking for the year, or it would be longer).  Heated water bucketsobviate the need to make half a dozen trips from the kitchen to the barn with steaming water, also negating the necessity of smashing old ice and fishing it out or schlepping entirely frozen rubber buckets to a place where a bucket-sized block of ice won’t trip me or bringing entirely frozen plastic buckets back into the kitchen to thaw.  Also swapping the frozen chicken-waterer with a newly-filled and and, again, bringing the frozen one into the kitchen.

You can see which loss aggravates me more.

But in the absence of NPR, or the current CD of my choice, my mind is busy replaying whatever the last piece of music that I happened to think of was, looping it an infinite number of times.  Very tiring.  Or I’m busy composing replies to FaceBook or blog posts or emails, or composing this blog post itself.  In my head.  It’s distracting and, depending on the luck of the draw with my mental music, can be quite annoying.  (Just because I thought of it doesn’t mean I like it so well.)  And my Aunt Jan likes to quote Thich Nhat Hanh about chores:  “You do the dishes to do the dishes.”  You try to be present with what you’re doing, not off planning the next thing or reviewing the last.

And actually, I like doing the chores.  I feel smug every time I heft a bale of hay over my head or carry 50 lbs of feed from one barn to the other.  I am mellowed by interacting with the goats, calling them by name, appreciating their winter fuzziness, rubbing their necks and faces, being followed around by the three little ones who have decided that I’m the best thing since grain with molasses.  Learning to identify the noisy ones by their individual bleats and blats and mehhhhs.  And I love the necessity of being out of doors (most days).
So I am happy to be mindful of my chores.

But on the other hand, I live so much in my head.  I get such pleasure from wordplay and intricate intellectual structures.  I love taking a text and making meaning out of it — drashing it so that in the end, both text and life are illumined and we experience/learn/see meaning in both.  I love using words to express just the right mixture of sense and sensibility (Happy Birthday Jane Austen), connecting myself to others and others to themselves and all of us to community.

Ironically, living in one’s mind is not a form of mindfulness.  Word-thoughts tend to take me, at least, away from where I am and what I am doing with my body.  But when one feels like one’s word tasks seem to exceed the available time, it’s hard to stay present and accounted for while doing physical tasks that don’t require large amounts of brainpower.

Nevertheless.  While listening to NPR makes the time pass pleasantly, and forestalls the Frimer Adon Olam from playing in an endless loop in my head, staying aware of my surroundings and actions does provide a different kind of pleasure.  And so does taking a break in the warm house, while I wait for the next two pails to fill with hot water from the kitchen tap, and writing about it.

Fixing the electricity in the barn might provide even more!