Tiny Life Hack: A White Square


While visiting friends in Maine this weekend, I stumbled upon what might prove to be a useful morning hack for you. They’d taken down their bathroom mirror (presumably to replace it), and in its place was a big white rectangle with nothing on it. The first few times, I was disoriented, because I counted on the mirror to give me a quick glance at myself. By the third time, I’d found what makes for a nice focusing hack.

Stare at a square of white wall

This might be equivalent to what Zen wants you to do. I don’t know. I failed Zen, and the other Buddhist methods didn’t click well for me yet, either. But here’s what I did:

I just stood straight and tall, breathed slowly, and looked at the white square. At first, everything was a jumble, like spinning a radio dial and listening to just snips of conversation. But, when I worked at it just a little, I found that I could either break off certain “voices,” and that I could choose to “tune in” certain threads a little better.

What focused me most was asking myself a single question: “What matters?”

This gave me a great frame upon which to hang the goings on of the day, my emotions, and the state of things. Sure, things were hectic. Sure, I hadn’t had much sleep the night before. Sure, I knew that my projects were piling up in my absense, but when I asked myself what mattered, it was this: connect with our hosts, and really enjoy my family.


And that’s what I did.

Break it Down

  • Stand up very straight, with your shoulders relaxed, before a square of white attached to a wall and look at it. (try posterboard from the local drugstore).
  • Take a few deep breaths, slowly. Take a few more.
  • Silence the “chatter.” Think of the white wall as much as you can.
  • Ask yourself: “What matters?” (This is not the same as “What needs to get done?”)
  • Listen to the response. Question it again.
  • Ask again: “What matters?”
  • Accept this answer and stare a while more. Just try to focus on the answer.
  • Leave this space with that idea firmly in your head.

I’m not one for meditating, but this worked well for me over the weekend, and now I’m going to implement it at home.

What are YOUR thoughts on the matter? How do you get to the above state? Where’s your success?

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