The Way of Mindfulness
The water is warm, with bubbles dancing on the surface. I immerse my hands and pull out a plate, feeling its porcelain smoothness against my skin. It drips a steady, diminishing stream back into the water as I pick up the dish rag, then make a series of steady swirls across the white surface. The little clumps of dried food are released and disappear beneath the bubbles.
The room is quiet and I can hear my own breathing as I rinse the plate and position it in the drying rack. I repeat these steps with more plates, then cups, then tableware. There is a serenity about it. I focus on what I'm doing. The water is warm. The air is cool. These sensations dance across my skin. There is nothing else in this moment. I am content.
Mindfulness is just another term for paying attention. Too often in today's world we are constantly distracted by sights and sounds crowding into our personal space. We always seem to have our phone, our computer, our television, or some other distraction happening. Some people leave the TV on all the time because they are afraid of the quiet, afraid that if the noise stops, so too will the world. We walk along the streets paying more attention to our phones than to where we are going—or to each other. Distract. Distract. Distract.
We have become so disconnected from the world, from life, from each other.
We got rid of our old dishwasher last year and I said, “Let's not get a new one.” My wife was skeptical, but I actually like doing the dishes. I find it a time to slow down from the hectic pace of life. I enjoy the peace and quiet, the time to think and meditate. I use it as time to focus on what I'm doing, to notice the layers beneath the surface of the everyday. It is a meditation for me. I give each dish, cup, knife, fork, its own time and attention. I notice them. I notice the fork's gentle curve, or the small chip in my favorite tea cup. I shut out the world and am present. All there is, is me, the soapy water, and the dishes.
Mindfulness As The Way
Sometimes my mind runs so fast that I have too many things going on at once. Multitasking—it's the bane of modern society. We do 10 things half way instead of 1 thing all the way. What kind of life is that? I've been working on being mindful, being present, and doing just 1 thing at a time. It's hard, because we've been brought up with the idea of getting so much done. Life has become a race with no finish until you collapse and die at the end. What kind of life is that?
I'm no expert. I'm not perfect. But I keep working at it. Working at slowing down. Working at paying attention. Working at actually experiencing the things I do, rather than looking back wondering what I just did and how I got to where I am. Sometimes monkey mind keeps chattering in my ear, but I push him away. I focus on what I am doing. I focus on the moment.
The Mindfulness of the Music
I bring this mindfulness to my music. When I set up my instruments, I pay attention. I experience what I'm doing. I open the cases and bags. I take out the steel racking and feel its coolness in my hands. I put it together and make sure all fittings are tightened. I take out the various instruments and examine them, checking their cords for wear. I carefully hang them on the rack, enjoying the experience. I unpack the mallets and various strikers, lining them up in their places. I choose one and start playing the Gongs, testing out the sound of the room. I listen. I listen again. I strike a Gong or Bell and move around the room, noticing the acoustics.
The same process occurs when I play. I choose my sounds and listen. I let the sounds evaporate, then choose another. I listen to the sounds in the room. I listen to how they react to each other. I experience what is happening. I notice my breathing. I breath with the sounds.
When I am done, I pack everything up with the same sense of attention, making sure everything is in its place, packed neatly and ready to go.
The whole process is a meditation.
Do not be in a hurry.
Do not be distracted.
Do not forget to pay attention.
Be mindful in all you do.
Chop Wood / Carry Water/ Play Gongs™