A few months ago I read an article about morning rituals
that explained the idea of a tea meditation. I’m not Buddhist and know very little about it, but this idea seemed to stick in my mind. The author described his morning:
Admittedly, this is one of my favorite parts of my day. I call this tea meditation, but when you fully engage yourself in what you’re doing with mindfulness everything becomes meditation, so this is really just “drinking tea”, nothing more than that.
After reading this, I started to notice my morning rituals, which often involved a handful of things at once. At the very least, I’m reading the news while sipping hot coffee. I don’t think that’s bad or something I need to change. But the idea that I could just drink the coffee was fascinating. Why don’t I do that?
I don’t do it for the same reason I can’t watch TV without checking my phone. It’s a habit. I have grown used to letting intrusive thoughts into my consciousness and then acting on them without hesitation. It often goes like this: We’ll put on a movie and I’ll start to wonder about an actress. What’s her name? I’ll look her up on IMDB. She’s Australian. Interesting. She does an American accent really well. Oh look, she was in another movie I like. Who directed that I wonder? Meanwhile, the plot of the movie passes me by.
Lately, I’ve tried remediation techniques. Before the movie starts, I will put my phone in another room and promise myself not to get it until the movie finishes. It should be so easy. It’s in this situation that I can see my mind at work. It wants answers and is used to getting them. I will find myself reaching for the phone, only to find it’s not there. I tell myself, “Let it go, let it go” and try to move on. Knowing where a movie was filmed does not matter. “Just watch the damn movie” I say to myself in a scolding tone.
Before we moved to Orcas Island, I had a record player and we enjoyed listening to albums. It’s safely packed away for now, but once we move into the new house, it will be part of lives once again and I expect it to be a tool for doing just one thing. That’s part of the beauty of an album. It has a terminus that works like a timer. I hope to do one thing for at least one side of an album again soon.
Now that I’m thinking in this framework, I notice activities that are perfect for focusing. On our property, we’ve planted a number of trees that will serve as privacy screens and I want to do everything I can to make them grow. This summer, that means watering them often and I love watering those trees. It feels healthy and productive. The other day I was watering and thought to myself, “Watering is a great example of just one thing!” As I moved to the next tree, my mind wandered and I started to think about writing about watering a tree as an example. Then I thought that a photo would really round out the post. So, while watering, I got out my phone and took a photo.
And here it is, an unremarkable monument to my inability to do just one thing: