When I was newly sober, my concentration was nonexistent. Guess what? Over twelve years later and with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, it is still not good.
Today, Sunday, was a lazy one spent on the computer and catching up with family members on the phone. I made a quick run to the store for milk and tea, and all the pretty things on the shelves kept me sidetracked. On the computer, it was so easy to open eBay and browse the fun things to bid on. I can get lost in the world of books on Amazon, too. Did you know they have over 15,000 free books there? (Check the Kindle free collection.) Project Gutenberg has twice that many, and there’s openlibrary.org with a million. There is so much to look at. My mind boggles.
Feeling frenetic, I threw together a sandwich and salad for dinner and wolfed it down. I began clearing the dishes in a frenzy and knocked about the kitchen. I had the kettle on. I had the water on, heating up for washing. I had music coming from the living room. I had my mind racing about things utterly unrelated.
Suddenly, I stopped. I could feel my heart racing, and I was doing nothing strenuous. I had worked myself into a lather.
I took a deep breath and another, in through the nose and out through the mouth. I paused.
I filled the dishpan with hot water, and I began a familiar exercise. Out loud, I said, “I’m picking up the silverware. I’m dumping it in the water. I’m reaching in the water. I’m scrubbing the spoon. I’m rinsing the spoon. I’m putting the spoon in the drainer. I’m reaching in the water. I’m scrubbing the…” With each motion, I announced the action.
I call this meditation.
Like sitting still and releasing, the act of pronouncing precisely what I’m doing as I’m doing it clears my brain. All I can hold in my mind are the words. I lose the racing thoughts. The rampant desires of shopping are forgotten. The million books lose their place. It’s all replaced by warm, sudsy water engulfing my hands.
My mind becomes filled with the actions, and I am free of turmoil. It seems ridiculous at first. Talking to yourself is frowned upon by most people. When it’s done with a purpose, however, it works wonders.
After the final, “I’m rinsing the plate. I’m placing the plate in the drainer,” I came away calm. Gone was the stress and the racing heart rate.
I’ve used this technique to calm myself down on many occasions, and once when I was particularly distressed, I even took clean dishes out of the cupboard just to have something to wash. I’ve used it performing other tasks, too. It forces focus and clears the mind. It’s wonderful.