So I’m washing the dishes this morning. Usually I clean the kitchen the night before, but I’d created such a pile-up in the sink and was out of it after a long day editing and then sunning and swimming at the beach that I just left it and tottered off to bed.

How can I put this? This morning I am in a conscious space. Deliberate. I actually LOOKED at the pots and pans I was scrubbing. And I was shocked at the baked-on build-up around the outsides and the bottoms of my stainless steel cookware. Everything had been spanking new and shiny just nine months ago. Now? Hmmmmm.

So I got out the stainless steel scouring pad and got into it. Not with a vengeance. Not in a hurry. Not as something to be gotten through so I could get on to the next thing—making coffee—and the next thing—getting to work at my computer—and the next thing—finishing the next chapter of the book I’m editing so I can get on to the next thing … conducting an interview.

Nope. I simply scrubbed. I enjoyed the texture of the metal under my hands. The heaviness of the pot. The texture of the scouring pad. The water. The smoothness of the pan. The greasy build-up spots. The satisfaction of watching bright polished metal arise from the gunky burnt umber buildup.

I was care-full.

Interesting word careful—nowadays it means having caution—beware. Yet another word that has lost its original meaning and become about fear: be aware.

Be aware of your surroundings, your body, the blood pumping through your veins, the soap on your fingertips, the cool linoleum beneath your feet, your stance, the way your weight is distributed through your body, the slight hint of night-blooming jasmine still on the air from the nocturnal blossoms furling their petals against the onslaught of the morning sun, the sound of distant traffic . . . other stories passing by . . . the feathery blossom on the tree outside the kitchen window that you never noticed before.

Nothing on automatic. Every sense present and accounted for. Engaged.

Wow. We talk about “being mindful” as if it were something we actually did. But being mindful isn’t something you “do.” It isn’t a task or a discipline. It is a way of being in the world: complete body presence. 3D surround awareness.

You’re in the picture, not racing through it. You’re not “you” trying to be mindful. That’s just one more separation dance—something spiritual to accomplish—something to put on a checklist to get around to someday when you have the time or remember to do it.

Mindfulness isn’t an accomplishment. It is not a spiritual practice.

It is life.

Are you in? Or out of it?