Day 14 Meditation
Washing dishes can be a time of meditation each day. It tends to be an activity we do several times a day, one that we usually do while thinking through something rather than paying full attention. It is rarely an activity we enjoy all that much, but one we might in fact find more nuanced and interesting as we pay attention in a deeper way.
An ordinary chore actually becomes a time of stepping out of automatic pilot and reconnecting to yourself and the present moment.
Mindfulness is not simply becoming aware of the temperature of my cup of coffee or hearing my coworker’s fingers type on the keyboard. It includes these things. But most of us simply use the word “mindfulness” to suggest “knowing what’s going on.” The popularization of mindfulness mostly has to do with the particular benefits of this practice: when you more closely tune into the details of your life, you enjoy things so much more. You are more present with your experience: you smell the cup of tea you’re drinking as opposed to drinking tea while on a conference call, simultaneously checking email, and watching the TV on mute.
Mindfulness isn’t just about knowing that you’re hearing something, seeing something, or even observing that you’re having a particular feeling. It’s about doing so in a certain way — with balance and equanimity, and without judgment. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention in a way that creates space for insight.
Question & Answer
Q: How do you know that you’re meditating?
A: The common assumption is that meditation is a state. It’s more skillful for us to see it as an activity.
Welcome back. Washing dishes can be a time of meditation each day. It tends to be an activity we do several times a day, one that we usually do while thinking through something, rather than paying full attention and it is rarely an activity we enjoy much, but might in fact find more nuance and interesting as we pay attention.
As you stand in front of the sink, notice any emotions that arise. Impatience, weariness, contentment, whatever the thoughts or emotions, meet them with gentle acknowledgement as best you can. This is what’s happening right now. It’s okay. Bring your attention to the physical sensations you’re experiencing. What do you see as you look at the sink in terms of colors and shapes? As you put your hands in the water, notice the temperature of the water and the feeling of the soap or suds. Feel what it’s like to have water swooshing around your hands. Is it pleasant, unpleasant, neutral? What does it feel like to hold a dish or a glass? How heavy or light is it? What textures do you notice?
See if you can be in the present moment as you wash one item. Does it feel satisfying, boring? You may notice many judgements come up in your mind. I can’t focus for a minute of washing dishes. I hate washing dishes, whatever it might be. If your mind kicks into high gear and you’re feeling a rush to get through the dishes, see if you can take a few breaths and even if at a quicker pace, begin again and bring your attention to the sensations, the experience of washing dishes. You can allow thoughts to come and go. Simply return to the actual direct experience in the moment, just now. In this way, an ordinary chore actually becomes a time of stepping out of automatic pilot and reconnecting to yourself and the present moment.
This week has provided the opportunity to take the more stable attention we cultivated in the first week and expand it to include awareness of many kinds of physical experiences. We made the switch from an emphasis on concentration to an emphasis on mindfulness, a relational quality that frees our attention from the grip of old habits. Whether in sitting, walking, lying down or doing daily activities like drinking a cup of tea, we have explored our bodies as the domain of mindfulness. See you next week where we’ll be focusing on mindfulness of thoughts and emotions.