November 02 2012
“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.
After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”
Chop wood, carry water, have a sip of tea and repeat! Oh those routine, mind numbing tasks such as folding laundry, doing dishes, sweeping floors, chopping vegetables and even chopping wood!. Eastern thought sees these tasks as most of what makeup our day and being mindful and knowing that these are the bread of life – how to be engaged and present and even meditative helps us to view that time differently.
The cycle of household indoor and outdoor chores are never ending. These menial tasks are using up valuable time that we could be spending otherwise – Not Necessarily True. When we maintain a mindful presence with our simple tasks we begin to view them as a valuable contribution to ourselves as well as those around.
These tasks actually give us time to center our thoughts on the activity which effectively stops our mind from focusing on the stresses and problems troubling us. When we allow ourselves to appreciate our accomplishments (whether it is how great the carpet looks after a thorough vacuuming or now there is enough wood chopped to last the week) we feel good about ourselves and more at peace. No one likes to clean the bathroom but once it is done we do appreciate how clean we know it is and feel a sense of accomplishment. And we think your bathroom probably loves the care and attention too 🙂
“Your own attention is what spiritualizes things. Attention to the meal you cook, the clothes you wash. Attention is love. And that’s transformative.” Karen Maezen Miller
These repetitive mundane tasks also give us a chance to be thankful:
- that we have the water to wash the dishes,
- the wood to heat our home,
- the clothes to keep warm
- food to eat
- house to live in
This contemplation while completing chores is a form of za-zen, a losing of the conscious mind through repetitive action. The more we practice this withdrawal from our hectic schedules and focus on the task at hand the easier it will be to achieve and the better we will feel. Over time these chores will take on deeper purpose, and eventually we will find even the mundane tasks worthwhile.
Why not practice with a Za-Zen Tea Moment? Heat the kettle, add tea leaves to your Libre Tea glass or tea pot, add the hot water and let it steep. Focus on the tea’s aroma and flavor, and how each pot tastes and smells slightly different though made from the same leaves. Now give attention to your mundane task and let it give your busy mind a rest from your ‘too fast and too many thoughts about the past or future’. Appreciate the ease of gathering the water and the warmth the tea gives us, the inner peace.
Congratulations to Georgiana, the winner of the Walking Reflections Tea Moment!
What’s your favourite mundane task of the week – how was your experience of a mindful activity – stay present and let us know about your experience – your challenges and rewards of a za-zen mindful approach – where you focused only on the task at hand.
More reading on mundane, repetitive tasks with a new rewarding approach: