Washing dishes to wash the dishes

I mentioned in this post Thich Nhat Hanh (TNH).  I have several of his books, and The Miracle of Mindfulness is a book that I pick up at least annually and re-read.  I will keep his book a little closer this year.  I believe that cultivating mindfulness is beneficial to one's well-being. It is certainly beneficial to mine, though I'm not a consistent practioner.

The idea that the mind has no mind is worth remembering.  We train our bodies in sports; we learn stuff; but do we really 'train' our mind to not wander off on this or that fool's errand.  The internet is like crack to an untrained mind.  Why else would you see the stupidity in 'teaser' headlines.

In the 90's I took a transcendental meditation class.  I got a lot from the course, but I was left with a decidedly bitter taste in my mouth after going through the course, and paying whatever the fee was (and I think it was $1,000), only to be encouraged to refer someone at a special discounted price. PFFFTT!

I tried to quell my cynicism and remind myself that I had learned a useful exercise.  And, it is true, I found it to be quite useful. As with any undertaking, I jumped in with gusto.  After working all day, and being a young mother, I found that when I got home and had a chance to do my 20 minute meditation that I had three outcomes:
  1. I fell asleep
  2. I was jolted out of mediation by the phone, husband or child, or sometimes all three
  3. I had a successful session 
 The preponderance of my sessions ended up with #1 & #2.  But when I experienced #3, I realized that this was something useful.

Like most useful things such as eating right and exercising, there is a small amount of effort and time involved that has a big dividend pay off.  Despite that small bit of trouble, the vast majority of us do not do such things.  Ashamedly, I am in that majority.

A concept so simple as stopping the mind's incessant wandering seems to be an easy enough thing.  It's not.  It is a discipline.  Too often, we are missing in action in the present moment.  Rather, we are inordinately preoccupied with the past or the future.  TNH gives a great teaching about the act of washing dishes for the sake of washing dishes.
While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes, which means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes.  At first glance, that might seem a little silly:  why put so much stress on a simple thing?  But that's precisely the point.  The fact that I am standing there and washing these bowls is a wondrous reality.  I'm being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions.  There's no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.

I think of this teaching (periodically) when I'm doing any dreaded task.  The act of being present in whatever it is that we are doing, transforms the task to a meditation exercise.  I'd like to apply this important teaching more systematically in my everyday life; rather than treat it as an afterthought.

Though I never cultivated a meditation practice in the traditional sense, I did use these teachings to find a way to elevate ordinary tasks into a more exalted form. I moved away from this practice, and would like to revitalize it.  When I did my trail running, I used that time to do my running meditation. My running meditation was no more than focusing on my breath and my running cadence and the feel of every stride on the trail.  It was a great way to be focused on the present.  No music; no partners other than my silent canine friends.  Just my breath and the steady pounding of my feet on the trail .

No special knowledge is needed to practice mindfulness, but it does require an intention to do so. I would recommend his book which can be obtained easily on Amazon to cultivate an awareness of these simple yet powerful teachings from a master teacher. 

I do not admire many people largely due to my demanding standards that few can meet (which says more about me than about others, but that is my burden). However, TNH is an example of a pure soul and a consummate teacher whose example of transcendent understanding, unimpeachable example, compassionate observer and patient explainer of all things that are simple, but worth knowing in an accessible, gentle manner.

Another's work that I enjoy is Osho.  Though he is a controversial figure, I enjoy his teachings, and I have gained much from them.

With that, I will go wash some dishes now...and truly wash the dishes.


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