“Why do you wash the dishes?”
The Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh is well known for asking his students this question, informing them that if they think the answer is “To get the dishes clean”, then they are mistaken.
The reason to wash the dishes is simply to wash the dishes.
What he means by this is the idea of being fully present and involved with the act we are engaged in at that moment, doing the act simply for doing the act, and not just for a particular result.
This is one powerful mindfulness technique that can bring us back to the present moment and reign in that monkey mind. We can do this wherever and whenever. We no longer need to go sit on a mountain top or lye on a beach in order to achieve inner peace.
It is an outdated way of thinking to believe that we need to place our body somewhere pleasant and calming in order for our mind to be happy and still.
Science has shown that our levels of happiness, stress, and mindfulness are determined by how much our mind wanders while we are engaged in any other activity. The more present we are, the more we are engaged and completely involved in the act. In doing this, the more joy we get from it.
That is the new way of meditation and mindfulness.
It was Ram Dass who said “We have become human doings instead of human beings”. Somewhere along the way, we have gotten so caught up in gadgets, real time news, data, apps, media and content consumption that we are too busy being busy.
We are endlessly distracted so much that our minds have gone from being tools to being our masters.
There is a saying—‘where attention goes, energy flows’. Well, attention is like Wi-Fi—we can’t necessarily see it or feel it, however, on some level it is there and it connects things together. We can’t touch the waves of Wi-Fi any more than we can touch the energy we put out and bring in to ourselves, yet it is there and it works.
Realizing this, we should consider where our attention is right now. Consider where our attention goes for most of the day.
This is what we are creating.
According to a research survey of a quarter-million responses, on average, minds were wandering 47 percent of the time. That means nearly half of all our time is controlled by our minds. Thus, we are at effect of our thoughts and we are losing the potential for focused attention in that 47 percent of our lives.
As Eckhart Tolle has said, “Compulsive thinking has become a collective disease.”
What is making this compulsion continue is the plethora of gadgets that essentially help us stay in our minds and cause us to be endlessly distracted. Our attention is focused on our phones, tablets and computers. We have become absorbed in our screens rather than being in the present moment.
We are basically zombies at the beck and call of our minds—either reliving the past or worrying about the future—while the present moment passes us by.
Even now, reading this post, has your mind wandered? Have other thoughts arisen without your bidding? From now on, let’s start to pay attention to our thoughts and observe where they go—are we often thinking about the past? Or are we worrying about the future?
Our monkey mind is just like an errant child—we need to control it and keep an eye on it, otherwise it will run rampant. We can consciously observe our thoughts and practice being mindful in every moment, and if we notice our thoughts starting to run away, or we are getting distracted from the present moment, we can bring our minds back to the now.
It can help to give our minds something to do while we focus on being present. Our minds are like computers—they are problem solvers and calculating machines. Computers take inputs, or problems, and calculate them through their CPU/brains, and they give us answers and solutions. We can give our minds a puzzle or something else to focus on to keep it on task and in line.
The more we notice our minds wandering, and the more we bring it back to the now, the easier it will be to identify and control those errant thoughts. This will give us the ability to focus our full attention towards the moment and the task at hand. It will help us realize the quality of attention that we bring to whatever we are engaged in and enhance the energy flow.
This will bring us greater awareness, productivity, energy levels, creativity and inspiration.
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Apprentice Editor: Karissa Kneeland / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Courtesy of the author.