Updated: Sep 22, 2020
Starting a meditation practice can be hard. Trust me I know. I remember back in late 2015 when I attempted my first sitting meditation. I made a commitment to only sit for six minutes and those six minutes turned into the longest six minutes of my life.
If you’ve ever taken time to sit and look within yourself in order to cultivate presence, you know that your first few times can feel strange—maybe even foreign.
At least this is how it was for me. I remember it feeling as if my skin was crawling and my mind was on fire... In fact it was most active my mind had been in a long time. For a brief moment I even considered that I might be having a panic attack.
Now, I could be crazy (and some people definitely think I am) but somehow I can’t help but think that this wasn’t a unique experience isolated to just me.
This got me thinking, “I wonder why our mind and body react this way when we observe them for the first time and furthermore, is there a better way to introduce people to meditation without scaring them away?”
With a quick search on Google I was able to find out that it’s not uncommon to feel anxious when you first start a meditation practice. This is because the feeling of your body and the heightened awareness of your thoughts can light up your nervous system and your prefrontal cortex (which is where cognitive thinking occurs). As your body begins to feel all sensations more intensely, your mind begins to work increasingly harder as it frantically tries to make sense of and analyze the new experience. This can lead to discomfort which can ultimately lead to feelings of anxiety and tension throughout the body. As you can see, these obstacles can make getting through our first few sessions very difficult.
Luckily there might be a simple answer to easing into a meditation practice…
Next time you want to see what it feels like to have a meditative experience try the “dish washing” mediation.
The dish washing meditation is a powerful and easy way to center yourself and create awareness of your mind and body. The practice itself can be done any time you have a pile of dishes in the sink. So, not only will you be practicing mindfulness but you will also be taking care of one of lives pesky little chores! Who knew the key to starting a mediation practice was washing dishes?
So, how does it work?
The name says it all. You simply just WASH your dishes. Nothing else...
Sounds easy enough, right?
Unfortunately, when it’s our first time we often don’t realize just how much we can miss when we aren’t used to paying attention. Instead of just going through the motions and thinking about your day in the background, focus on the feeling of the warm water on your hands and the smell of the soap as you see yourself slowly wipe away the food and scrub your plates clean.
The objective is to see if you can pick up on as many sensations as possible that are directly related to the experience of washing your dishes. Lucky for us, there is a lot happening when we wash dishes so our minds will have plenty to notice.
After you have found the moment and you feel as though you are ok with the experience, your next goal is to see if you can keep your attention on the task at hand. Inevitably your mind will wonder as you begin to think about other things, but that’s okay. All you need to do is note to yourself “Oh, Im thinking” and bring your attention back to the dishes.
Every time you see your mind wander and bring it back to the sensations of the moment, you are effectively working out your mediation muscles. This is because in many ways, this simple mediation practice is the same as a formal mindfulness mediation practice.
In both instances your goal is the same: choose where you want to place your attention to be and every time you notice your mind is in another place, bring it back. Do this time and time again and eventually you create space between you and the mind and that space is where all the growth happens.
It’s that easy!!
Hopefully by now, I’ve inspires those of you reading this that want to start a practice to go wash some dishes. If not dishes you can try things like laundry and yard work as well! The concept is the same for any house chore really.
Finally, for those of you that do try this technique please let us know how it goes. Did you find it easier than a sitting meditation? Did you feel present and more aware of your mind and your physical sensations? We can’t wait to hear from you and until next time…
Many many blessings.