Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Zen of Housework

Maybe Avo was on to something when he talked about the Zen of cleaning.

The Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that when you wash dishes, you should just wash dishes. It’s that simple.

As thoughts arise, one should simply return awareness to being present with the task. The only catch is that when I’m doing dishes, I’d rather not be fully aware of the task.

According to Thich Nhat Hanh, washing dishes in this method becomes the focus of a mindfulness meditation. Could washing dishes really lead to inner peace? Does loading the dishwasher count?

Sri Sri Shuddhaanandaa (“Baba”), the founder mentor of Stress Management Academy and the Founder Chairman of Lokenath Divine Life Mission, makes washing dishes sounds like a deeply spiritual experience.

If you are washing the dishes, recognize that you are not doing them alone… Mother Earth, the air, the sun, all have joined with you in celebration. You feel washing dishes is a chore only when you cannot consciously connect to the Cosmic process involved in your work.

It’s worth a try. I take a stab at the dirty dishes piled up in the sink. I open myself to the experience of washing dishes.

With deep concentration and mindfulness, I try to be completely present in the moment as a scrub a greasy pan.

Zen Philosophy teaches that every second of life is a miracle. It is a miracle that I am here now washing the dishes. I feel the water run over my hands. I become one with the water. I become one with the dishes.

Well, not exactly. As hard as I try to connect to the Cosmic process, I am unable to clear my mind and fully celebrate the joy of the dish washing process.

Luckily, unlike Judaism, in Buddhism, there is no guilt. To a Zen philosopher, guilt is an unnecessary emotion that prevents us from fully being in the moment.

Therefore, I will not feel guilty about not being Zen enough. But I still have to finish doing dishes.

1 comment:

mcmscricket said...

I've tried to treat doing basic housework chores as a form of meditation, but it sure doesn't work for me. I just start thinking about how bored I am, how I really don't want to be doing X, how maybe I could just take a 2 minute break and read a few pages of my book... and before I know it it's three hours later and X still hasn't been done. Sometimes I find that the only way to get through it at all is to go really, really fast.