For eight years, I lived in a quiet, peaceful neighborhood surrounded by nature. I lived right by the beach in California and went on silent meditation retreats three times per year in the San Bernardino Mountains.
On my first four-day meditation retreat, I was given the task of cleaning the dishes after breakfast for the 40 people attending the retreat. Piles of dishes and pots and pans loaded up two sinks: one for soaping and scrubbing and another for rinsing. A fellow retreatant was at the first sink and I was at the second.
I was mindfully and carefully washing each dish, making sure I was breathing deeply and taking my time to make sure each dish was perfectly clean. A monk came over, frustrated with me.
"What are you doing?" He asked, raising his hands. "I'm mindfully washing the dishes," I told him.
"Well, mindfully was the dishes then. But do it fast," he said. "If you keep this up, we won't have dishes for lunch."
It was then that I realized: We can be both mindful and fast.
I also learned that when doing things mindfully, I didn't actually have to be sitting in meditation to get the peace I wanted. I could embody the meditation practice in every moment of my day-to-day even while being busy.
Then, I moved to New York City. My lifestyle was suddenly super-fast-paced, and it was a huge lesson when it came to my meditation practice. Suddenly, I really had to apply that whole "mindful and fast" thing to my life.