If you ever try to deep clean your mini blinds, as a bonus you will also learn how to repair one of the slats. It will be one near the top, of course.
But as an added bonus, it will also help you reach enlightenment.
I’ve come to the (temporary) conclusion that in essence, “meditation” is merely a word for any set of activities that helps you keep your cognitive awareness in the present moment. At will.
Or perhaps another way to word it is that it helps you notice when your conscious awareness is no longer focused on the present moment.
Focusing on the breath is like the training wheels. Once you get your balance, you can drop the breath focus. The aim is to hit that zone where you’re just doing what you’re doing.
I suspect it has something to do with the conscious control of the mental process by which we interpret the experiences derived from your senses into the language centers of the brain.
Mediation helps us cultivate and sustain that state of awareness that precedes this process.
So to me, any activity that helps you stay in that channel of awareness where you’re just doing what you are doing, and not internally narrating it back to yourself, is in some way a meditation practice.
Mini-blinds appear very scary, especially if you’ve ever gotten a set tangled up. Otherwise known as “time to buy new mini-blinds”.
Not to mention putting up with that pile of slats stacked at the bottom on your shorter window frames. “It looks fine”, you tell yourself unconvincingly.
It turns out that the mechanics and engineering of the mini-blinds isn’t all that complex, once you actually stop and take the time to really perceive what’s going on.
The problem is, we usually approach the mechanics of the mini-blinds in a “let’s-get-this-over-with-so-I-can-do-something-else” mindset.
If you unhurry yourself, and realize that you can’t just brute-force your way through the job, the mini-blinds will reveal their secrets, and you will become one of the initiated.
The process of replacing a mini-blind slat is not complex, but it does require you to have your full attention on the project.
As I progressed in the task, I discovered myself in that desirable state of mind often called “The Zone”.
I’ve been there before, usually by accident, when working on pencil drawings. If I took my time, I would get psychologically sucked into the scene I was attempting to depict.
The process of drawing individual blades of grass was not a chore to hurry through, but a joy to savor and extend.
You’ve been there before, in your own way. We all have.
It usually happens by accident. We lack the ability to invoke or enter this state at will.
Sometimes dangerous situations can trigger it.
But meditation techniques, I think, are the systematic cultivation of the ability to enter it on demand.
I think repairing complex things is an interesting way to approach this alternate form of meditation.
You have a specific goal. Using the inner narrative will only distract you from achieving that goal. Usually the goal is so apparently complex or intimidating that the conscious mind can do nothing but focus on the task at hand.
Once I snipped the cords on the ends of the mini-blinds, I was officially “in” the project. I had to either repair them, or admit failure and buy new ones. I was determined not to buy new ones.
No longer was I thinking about what I was going to do after I fixed the blinds, what I was going to cook for dinner, or — what was it that I was just thinking?
No, I was now “in” the project. The only way out was to solve the riddle.
My mind shifted into that state where I was able to really see the engineering of the pulley mechanism. I was actually seeing the blinds, rather than just looking at them.
Snipping those mini-blind cords somehow also snipped my tether to the inner narrative.
Years ago in college, I took a glass-blowing class. I was so enamored by it that I switched my major from Painting & Drawing to Glassblowing.
I switched back the next semester. But the hypnotic hold that glassblowing held over me never left.
it wasn’t until many years later when I finally gave meditation a serious go that I understood why I was so enthralled by glassblowing.
The process is extremely dangerous — you are literally holding molten glass in your hand using a wet newspaper, and any wrong move could melt off your appendage in an instant.
That overriding awareness of the danger resulted in instant attainment of the meditative state where your attention is truly focused on only what you are doing, and nothing else.
Now, of course the mini-blinds aren’t nearly as dangerous as molten glass (although not too far off). And maybe it’s just my affinity for solving puzzles and challenges. But there’s something about fully committing yourself to a problem or project that draws you into that hyper-focused state of pure experience that precedes the chopping up of that unbroken whole of sensory immersion into language, thought, and the inner narrative.
It made me wonder if people who work in the trades get a rush from repeatedly entering these tasks which have the ability to whisk them away into that hyper-focused state?
I wondered if it explained my tendency to lose interest in a thing once I figured out the basics of how it worked… it no longer had the ability to draw me into hyper-focus awareness.
The blinds are repaired. The cords a proper length, the stack of slats at the Goldilocks number.
But I can already see that the blinds themselves no longer hold the ability to usher me into that mesmerizing state of awareness.
The puzzle is gone. The mechanics are clear. Now, it’s just a chore.
But what it taught me is that if I so choose, I can decide to be “in the project”, no matter what that project is. In fact, I think it’s imperative that I find a way to consciously be “in” all my projects going forward.
Each one of them holds yet another key to liberation, if I allow them to.