Having a touch of Attention Deficit Disorder can be a boon for the spiritual life. It’s never easy to live fully in the present moment, to gratefully embrace all that life brings, or to balance our “being” and “doing.” But I think that ADD can be an ally in these spiritual pursuits.

Being Here, Now

Spiritual sages throughout history have urged us to live in the present moment, fully aware of the sacredness in all that surrounds us. They say this is a universal pillar of spiritual growth. Making it an intentional practice can lead to wonder, which leads to gratitude: one of my favorite fruits of spirituality.

Brother Lawrence, a simple monk who lived in the 1600’s, is recognized as having learned to fully “practice the presence of God.”

Brother Lawrence

Brother Lawrence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“In the noise and clatter of my kitchen,” he said, “while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were on my knees.”

This tranquility is usually far from us, since our minds are often occupied with worrying about what’s just happened, or preparing for something that might happen. We can be everywhere but where we are.

For me, though, with my lively ADD mind, I can be fully present from moment to changing moment. As the moments pass by, my brain and emotions happily follow, like a bouncing ping-pong ball. I’m wired that way. I can go from despair to joy fairly easily, like a child, in some ways.

Are You In or Out?

I was talking with a friend today about the inward-outward journey and how the spiritual life consists of both serving others and also finding time for solitude and silence. We need a balance, because if you’re all service and don’t take time to re-charge, you’re going to burn out, and if you’re overly monkish, you’re not helping the world.

I suppose you could argue that – I believe that monks and nuns praying for peace are indeed adding goodness to the universe. But most of us don’t live in convents, and we need balance.

Here again, my ADD allows me to move from contemplation and prayer to calling up a depressed friend in a matter of moments. Yes, I distract myself and sometimes have trouble with staying on task (unless I get into obsessive mode — another story), but my day is usually a balance of “doing” and “being,” just by virtue of the fact that I bop back and forth.

The Yin and the Yang

Here in the compartmentalizing western world, we talk about the yin and the yang, shadow and light, while in Chinese philosophy, it’s yin-yang: a dynamic, interactive relationship.

But even in this melded Chinese word, it’s still black and white. There’s no grey in the circle.

I’ve come to believe that, while life flows, it doesn’t flow from yin to yang, from good to bad, or from easy to hard. It’s both at the same time — two rivers together.

When my mother was dying, I was desperately sad, but at the very same time, I could see that those last days were treasures. I loved her more than I ever had, and I valued her life, every day of her 91 years. It was a privilege and a joy to be with her on her journey, till we got to the door I couldn’t go through. I am so, so grateful to have experienced that profound but terribly difficult time.

Again, I think that perhaps it’s easier for someone with mild ADD to appreciate this confluence. We have to hold a number of things in dynamic, non-linear tension all the time.

The Dog Ate My Homework

ADD is not a serious condition for me, and I don’t mean to make light of it. I am aware that people’s lives can be dreadfully disrupted by it.

I am frequently frustrated at my inability to get anything done because I get distracted, or lose things, or go running off in a different direction. For instance, right now I’m supposed to be designing a writing course, but I keep changing my mind about the content of the course. So I’m blogging instead of doing my homework.

dog eating homework

(As it turns out, bouncy brain is also a help to blogging. I am interested in *everything* and enjoy bounding from subject to subject.)

At any rate, my point is that ADD is yin-yang – it might frustrate me, but I can see some spiritual advantages, and I’m grateful for that revelation.

“Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on DiscoverySchool.com”

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