Paris looks more like its normal self today. That is to say, it’s been raining. That’s fine with me; I’m nice and cozy inside my little flat, video chatting with two old friends who are also in confinement in London and Tokyo, futzing around the house doing little chores. It’s a very peaceful day.
The tranquility is coming from within me. In my last meditation class with Duda Baldwin, we discussed how staying in the present moment can bring peace. I write about this a lot, but unless you really understand what this means, and how to achieve it, being “in the now” sounds like so much guru jibber-jabber.
But Duda showed us how to become mindful using simple everyday tasks. Making tea, chopping vegetables—these were two examples she gave. Focusing your mind on only the task at hand. It sounds simple enough, but how many of us have whole conversations with ourselves while we’re washing dishes, preparing dinner, or even (horrors!) driving. The moment you let your mind wander, is the moment you’re, well, not in the moment.
I’ve been practicing this concept of mindfulness since our class on Friday, and I’ve become aware of just how much I have not been paying attention to what I’m doing. This is because my mind is either on something totally other, or because my impatience moves my focus ahead to the next step in the task—before I’ve finished the current step. My dishes bear the brunt of this in the form of tiny chips here and there from when I turned my eyes from the task at hand (putting the plate in the cupboard) to the next plate in the dish drain.
My aim is usually to get the mundane tasks done and over with as quickly as possible, so I can get on with my day. But our days are filled with many little mundane tasks, and doing them mindlessly is like swiping through much of our lives—pulling ourselves away with thoughts or worries about things that may never happen.
Our days in confinement are all about mundane tasks; there is no “day” to get on with. This is our day. To give each task time and attention—care—is to give quality and peacefulness to our lives.
Now I take each dish carefully out of the drain, feel it in my hands, watch my hands putting it in the cupboard, then turn to the next dish and repeat. My mind is in the action, and it’s strangely much more satisfying. The most important part: there is no room for the inner conversation, no place for invented problems to be imagined. I am made calmer with each task I do. This is meditation in action.
Try it. Speak the steps of the task out loud it if helps. I’ve found that not only have I stopped chipping my dishes, I’ve also stopped stubbing my toes, leaving full cups of tea around the house, burning the toast. I no longer forget where I put my phone, or what I was about to do. Every action has a purpose, every task is a job well done. Every moment is lived fully.
And, yes, I am more at peace.
Welcome to Music Mondays!
Every Monday, I’m going to share a song. Because. Today, I’m singing an Italian pop song from the 1960s, made famous by the incomparable Mina: “E Se Domani.” I recorded this track a while back for a friend. (Forgive the tacky karaoke orchestration.)