The mind is an amazing and complex thing. It can solve incredible problems, make connections faster than computers, sense danger from the merest environmental clue, all the while regulating our bodies—the pumping of your heart, blood pressure and artery constriction, circulation, oxygen intake, food absorption and body temperature.
Do you wash the dishes in order to get them done so you have time to do what you'd really like to do? Or, do you wash the dishes to wash the dishes? The distinction may not seem important or it may seem sort of silly. But it is, in fact, a central concept in practicing mindfulness in everyday life.
As a mother of three young children, I spend a lot of time washing dishes. Last year alone I washed over 2000 bottles. Each bottle had 6 individual pieces that had to be taken apart, scrubbed, dried and reassembled. I washed countless other dishes and pans, as well, but think for a moment about the amount of time it takes to wash 2000 bottles. There was a time when I felt I spent a good portion of my day cleaning the bottles and it felt like a chore. When I approached it as a task to get done so I would have time for other things it was irritating and frustrating. However, if while I washed the bottles I simply washed the bottles it became soothing, instead of tiresome. When I brought my attention to the warmth of the water, the fact that I was standing there, the feel of the different components and the actions of cleaning them in that moment, washing the bottles actually became a mindful and relaxing activity.
To change a chore into a relaxing moment, consider those tasks you rush through every day in order to get them done. Next time try to be fully present during the completion of one chore. If you find you're thinking about what you will be able to do when it's done, simply bring your mind to the experience of doing it.