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.