Meditation as housecleaning

I sat down to read on Sunday and found it quite difficult to focus.  I'd removed all distractions - I was by myself, comfortable, with some background music on - but a thousand thoughts interrupted me.  Gotta add that chore to my to-do list ... what did that guy mean when he said that ... it became comical when I remembered I was out of business cards and found myself getting out of my chair to put a couple of them where I'd find them later.

This was my mind tying up loose ends.

I kept returning to the book (my book club was meeting to discuss it Monday) but I felt bad that I wasn't fully engaged.  I liked the material, but it took a couple hours before I could read more than a paragraph without thinking of something else.  I had a bit of an epiphany and jotted myself a note, saying that it happened when I sat down to read because the environment I set up for reading is exactly the environment my mind needs to do the housecleaning.

Let's pursue this housecleaning analogy:
Let's say I have the house to myself on a Saturday.  I want to use the day to work on a big project and then relax later.  I have some breakfast and start walking around the house.  In the kitchen, I set down my coffee cup and I see that there are dirty dishes.  I wash them and clean the countertops.  I can't just start on my project with the house looking like a disaster.  Leaving the kitchen, I go upstairs to put on some old jeans.  On the way, I see dog hair on the floor, so I decide to vacuum.  But when I get to the bedroom I see clothes lying around.  I tidy them up and make the bed.  I vacuum.  When I go to the basement to get the handheld vacuum for the stairs, perhaps I notice my half-finished project laid out on a table, and start working on it.  Or perhaps I observe that the fireplaces are full of ash, and it's cold out so I might prepare firewood for later.  This goes on until I'm either too tired to continue or there is no more that I can do.  And then finally I settle down.  Perhaps in the living room, with a fire and a beer and some music.  Or perhaps in my office, with a book.  Or maybe, if I have the energy, work on that project.
When I got to the book club and mentioned my epiphany, Jack Ricchiuto told me that my experience was a textbook example of meditation.  In meditation, he said, there is an object of focus; at first the mind wanders but you return your attention to the object.  After a half an hour to a few hours, the mind clears.  I was quite surprised; meditation has been recommended to me before, but I always imagined it to be ... I don't know, something like magic.  Not something that could happen accidentally.  But this experience was quite familiar to me.  I guess I've been meditating from time to time all my life.


  1. I guess it depends on the outcome. If after a day of constant distractions from your objective goal you end up not reaching that goal, then I'd say you may have ADD. Also, if your mind is so distracted that you end up exhausted at the end of the day, that's not really meditation. You should feel relaxed afterward, not wiped out. However, if you achieve a kind of mellow focus where your goal's task is comparatively easy to accomplish due to your non-distracted focus, then I'd say you've experienced meditation.

  2. By the way, I don't know if you're following my blog or not, but I wouldn't mind having your opinion from time to time on some of the subjects I write about. We'll discuss this at the next Moose meeting!

  3. Yeah ... my experience the other day was that after a couple hours, the distractions stopped. And I felt refreshed. I think something similar happens as people try to get to sleep: you mentally run through the events of the day until your mind is done doing it. Or you fall asleep.

    I had a comment in mind about your teeth post ... I have an unfortunate tendency to read people's posts in batches, rather than keeping up to date continuously. I'll drop by.