I saw a romantic greeting card that showed a couple kissing in the front seat of a car. The message said, “If you can kiss while driving safely, you are not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.”
Anything that is worth doing, is worth doing with a whole heart. And mind. And body.
We get into trouble not because we do things that are wrong, but because we approach our activities with divided intentions. Our body is doing one thing while our heart is elsewhere. We go to jobs we’d rather not be at, we sleep with people we don’t love, we go to parties we secretly find boring or repulsive. At the same time we love people we don’t express our love for, we deny ourselves food we would really enjoy, we have creative impulses we do not follow, and we know truths we do not act on.
I have a very simple definition of integrity: You are in integrity when what you are doing on the outside matches who you are on the inside. I respect people who live unapologetically. I know people who do things I don’t agree with, or wouldn’t do myself, but I respect them for being 100 percent who they are. They are in integrity.
In Emmanuel’s Book II: The Choice for Love, Emmanuel suggests, “When you move into your physical loving, as you remove your clothing, take off your mind, as well. It simply is not equipped to hear the music.”
In the movie City Slickers, a veteran cowboy named Curly teaches some angst-ridden dudes some country wisdom. When things get tough, Curly raises his index finger and nods. Eventually the city slickers figure out what he meant: “Do one thing at a time. If you can really focus on what is right before you, everything falls into place.”
I read a fascinating article in USA Today about multi-tasking, the process of doing several things at once. Years ago, this was called “spinning plates.” Now it’s multi-tasking. Whatever. The writer stated that we invented time- and labor-saving devices to give us more time to enjoy life. But instead of enjoying life with our extra time, we find more things to do. Ultimately our life is not richer because of our voicemails, emails, cell phones, faxes, pagers and microwaves; it is just busier. If we did more of the things we really want to do with our free time, these inventions would be worthwhile. Instead, we find more things we have to do.
In the late 1950s, a survey asked a large group of people if they considered themselves happy. Nearly 60 percent of the group answered yes. A few years ago a similar study was conducted, and 57 percent of the group answered yes. So all of our slick technology has not improved the quality of our life. Quantity of activities, for sure; quality, no.
What is it, then, that makes our lives qualitatively better? Presence. Being 100 percent with what you are doing. Approaching work, relationships, everything with a whole heart.
I would like to tell you about the most prosperous man I know. Iani sits on a local beach and sings love songs. He strums handsome exotic Indian instruments that he meticulously crafts at home, then comes to the beach around sunset, and chants. He sings love songs to God, to the sea, to the sky, to the sand, to the wind, and, if you pass by, Iani will sing a love song to you. During many memorable sunsets I have sat with Iani and sung with him. I take an empty plastic water bottle and do percussion. Iani lives very modestly and has few possessions. He is the most prosperous man I know because his heart is full of love and he is fully present. When I am singing with Iani, I don’t miss my cell phone. Email is non-existent. Money has no value. I am content.
“But Alan,” you say, “Not all of us have the luxury of sitting and chanting on a Maui beach. Some of us have jobs and families to support, and responsibilities.”
Fine. It doesn’t matter. Just be fully present with whatever you are doing. When you are at work, that’s all that exists. When you are making love, make total love. When you are with your kids, really be with your kids.
I noticed that when I did book signings, I felt rushed so I could accommodate everyone in line. I was not fully present with some people because I was aware of the people behind them in line. Then I realized that I was cheating them and myself. So I decided to be fully present with each person, and stay with them until I really connected with them. Suddenly book signings became a delight. Now I love talking to people, touching them, looking into their eyes. I learned that it does not take a lot of time to make contact; just a few moments of full presence can be completely fulfilling.
Everything is like kissing and driving. If you’re driving, really drive. If you’re kissing, really kiss.