In my journey toward learning to live in the present I was genuinely surprised by the results of an exercise I assigned to myself. I had decided that I would attempt to remain completely present during a morning shower. By that I mean that my only thoughts would be about the task at hand. I would only think about the water on my skin, the washing, rinsing, repeating, etc. The goal was to not allow my thoughts to wander into their usual territory – what I had to do that day, what I did yesterday or a gazillion other possible avenues that my monkey brain might decide to traverse. Seems fairly simple right? WRONG! I lasted maybe 1 minute before I realized I was off in lala land pondering what I should use to clean the aluminum rear wheel on my motorcycle. So much for mindfulness.
OK, I hear you chuckling – trust me, it’s much harder than you think. So I got my self back in the moment and this time lasted perhaps 2 minutes before, adios – “I sure need to drop off the dry cleaning this morning.” I simply could not believe how difficult it was to stay in the moment – mindful of the present task and nothing else. The meaningless mental chatter was a formidable force to reckon with. But alas, I would not be vanquished! I repeated the same efforts daily until, finally, I was able to stay present and focused for an entire shower. The day that happened I exited the shower doing the happy dance. My wife, likely thinking I had finally stripped a gear asked, “Why exactly are you doing the happy dance?” (she knows what the happy dance looks like). When I replied, “I managed to stay present through an entire shower!” She just smiled, said, “That’s nice honey,” and went on about her makeup. OK, I get that.
There is a lesson here, however. As I became more and more adept at remaining present in the shower, that same skill started blossoming in numerous other seemingly mundane, unconscious tasks – doing the dishes, making the bed, spraying weeds in the driveway, and many more. These simple actions became meditations, insights that can only arise from learning to still your mind and live in the moment. The net result has been I experience far less stress, my attitude is much better, concentration is far sharper and I am just generally a happier person. That’s a pretty fair gain from an experiment to stay present in the shower, yes?
So give it a shot. Start with the shower or the laundry or any other seemingly innocuous task that you perform regularly. Eventually the light switch will come on and you will realize that you have managed to transform the mundane – into the sacred.