As a hippie yogi instructor, I’ve been reading about mindfulness lately. As an editor, a lot of this is just too terrible to read. But I love Thich Nhat Hanh.
As a terrible meditator, I love him even more.
Rather than telling you to secret yourself away in a quiet temple and chant for hours (which you should totally do if you’ve got the time and disposition for it), he encourages you to be mindful in everything you do. If you’re eating a tangerine, eat a tangerine. If you’re talking to someone, talk to them. And my favorite, wash the dishes to wash the dishes:
…which means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. At first glance, that might seem a little silly: why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that’s precisely the point. The fact that I am standing there and washing these bowls is a wondrous reality. I’m being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.
So for today’s writing prompt, in the ailing monk’s honor, let’s focus. Pick one simple task. Making the bed, walking the dog, painting a fence. Let it be the only action that takes place in the entire 500 words you’re giving over to it.
If you’re working on a larger piece (be it novel, monograph, biography, etc.), pick some quotidian activity your character or subject would do. How would they do it? What would the experience be like in the place and time in which they live? What details would they notice as they strove to focus on this one thing? Would they be able to do so?
Bonus prompt: try this in different voices or perspectives. Write it from a third person omniscient perspective, for example, and then try it from a first person point of view.