Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Washing Dishes

Today, I want to share one of my all time favorite reflections. This writing by Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hahn is from his marvelous book, "Peace is Every Step." If you don't own this book... you should!

This reflection has helped me totally transform my relationship to my 'to do' list and to the essential tasks of living!

Washing Dishes - Thich Nhat Hahn

To my mind, the idea that doing dishes is unpleasant can occur only when you aren't doing them. Once you are standing in front of the sink with your sleeves rolled up and your hands in the warn water, it is really quite pleasant. I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water, and each movement of my hands. I know that if I hurry in order to eat dessert sooner, the time of washing dishes will be unpleasant and not worth living. That would be a pity, for each minute, each second of life is a miracle. The dishes themselves and the fact that I am here washing them are miracles!

If I am incapable of washing dishes joyfully, if I want to finish them quickly so I can go and have dessert, I will be equally incapable of enjoying my dessert. With the fork in my hand, I will be thinking about what to do next, and the texture and the flavor of the dessert, together with the pleasure of eating it, will be lost. I will always be dragged into the future, never able to live in the present moment.

Each thought, each action in the sunlight of awareness becomes sacred. In this light, no boundary exists between the sacred and the profane.. I must confess it takes me a bit longer to do the dishes, but I live fully in every moment, and I am happy. Washing the dishes is at the same time a means and an end - that is, not only do we do the dishes in order to have clean dishes, we also do the dishes just to do the dishes, to live fully in each moment while washing them.

Wow. Isn't that profound? I remember the first time I read it, and washing dishes became a type of 'meditation and mindfulness' training for me. Now, truly, whenever I wash the dishes, I use it as a reminder of how present I want to be in my life. I want to be present to it all. Each feeling, each sensation, each experience, each, precious moment. I use this approach for all of my household chores and find that it really transforms my experience of them. I can actually enjoy picking up, or watering the plants, or folding laundry. I don't simply try to do them as fast as I possibly can to get to 'what's important!'

The truth is, everything we think and do is important,including some of the more mundane responsibilities in life, because the value isn't actually found in the physical task (although there is surely a benefit there as well), it's about who we are 'being' and 'becoming' while we perform the task.

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