The Hardest Thing I Do All Day


Drawing by Ruiizu-Chan.

I have an eye condition that requires me to put drops in them every morning and evening. To help the drops work better, I’m supposed to keep my eyes closed for about two minutes each time.

Being a good rule-follower and because I really do want relief from my condition, I do it, standing in my kitchen with the oven timer on. But I’ve come to think of it as the hardest thing I do all day (after getting out of bed, that is).

How can standing still with eyes closed for two minutes be so bad, you ask? Because it requires mind control. During those two minutes I think of at least a dozen things I should be doing rather than standing still: I should turn on my computer. I should unload the dishwasher. I should write a check for my son’s lunch money. I need to write down that appointment in my calendar. I need to change a word in one of my stories to something better. I wonder what the weather’s going to be like this week?

At first, I often gave into into these impulses and turned on the computer or wrote in my calendar. I’d close my eyes again later, but it felt like cheating. It wasn’t long before I took the two-minute task as a challenge. Let’s see if I can keep my eyes closed the whole time this time.

You know what happened . . . I tried to do all those same things with eyes closed. This had mixed results along with some bumps and bruises. (Smile.)

So, taking a cue from author Elizabeth Gilbert’s first experiences with meditation in “Eat, Pray, Love,” I challenged myself to keep my mind quiet so that keeping my eyes closed wasn’t such a hardship.

If you’ve ever tried mediation, you know it’s hard. An untrained mind is an unfettered being. It resists control. It wants to float around at will. You, dear blog readers, know how my mind loves to meander.

But by practicing twice a day, every day for a huge total of four minutes, I’m getting better at it. When I feel the urge to do something, I recognize it and deflect it. I give myself permission to do nothing. I concentrate on my breathing or on the sounds around me. I file away impulses for action until after my time is up. I try to be present.

I’d like to think the practice not only helps my eyes, it’s helping me master myself.

So if you ever want to try something really hard, try standing still with your eyes closed for two minutes. I dare you!

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