Maybe you've seen some of the dozens of stories about coloring as the new meditation. People who know I meditate send them to me and ask what I think -- which is that coloring is not actually meditation, but it can be done meditatively.
What is the mind of meditation? The mind that knows where it's attention is, what's in the field of attention, what the context is. The mind that can choose where to focus attention and hold it there without being carried off into reveries or commentary or plans. The mind that can rest and be at ease with the content that arises rather than being churned up or defeated by it.
We practice that in sitting meditation. But the real benefit is being able to bring that into our lives. Practicing it in physical activities can help us do that.
In the second week of Sharon Salzberg's Real Happiness 28-day meditation challenge, she introduces several activities that can be done with the mind of meditation: Walking, eating, doing dishes.
Talking about washing dishes, she says: It tends to be an activity we do several times a day, one that we
usually do while thinking through something rather than paying full
attention. And it is rarely an activity we enjoy much, but might in fact
find more nuanced and interesting as we pay attention.
There are lots of things we do on automatic pilot -- Thich Nhat Hanh talks about using brushing your teeth as an opportunity for meditation -- that could be used as opportunities to improve our focus, to be present with sensations, to appreciate our bodies and our circumstances. Instead of grumbling about the endless pile of dishes, we can appreciate the warmth of the water, the wonder of indoor plumbing, all of the people over time and space whose efforts brought us the food that made the dishes dirty and created the dishes themselves. Instead of feeling put upon, we can feel connected.
Sharon describes this larger focus as mindfulness, "a relational quality that frees our
attention from the grip of old habits."