Monday, August 22, 2011

Meditating On Dirty Dishes


Recently I started a new part time job at cafe. It’s an enjoyable job, at least until it’s time to do the dishes. I’ve always loathed cleaning dishes, and really who likes the dirty job?

One afternoon my arms elbow deep in dirty suds I caught myself daydreaming. How can I stay present for an hour sometimes more in meditation, but not for the ten minutes it took me to wash?  
Naturally, I came to the conclusion that I’m too good for dishes after all I’m a yoga teacher, I meditate, I’m better than this simple task. 

I quickly realized that was my ego talking, and I thought of a zen proverb I had disregarded so many times before.

"Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water."

Did anything shift from not enlightened to enlightened? Nothing, except the state of mind. I believe that this proverb helps us to remember that no matter how "enlightened" we become we must let go of ego and remain grounded in the simple, mundane, or even unpleasant.

The dishes still need cleaning, and I could quit my job. But I still have bills and obligations, so like the proverb suggests I changed my state of mind. My task was not a punishment, but rather a gift.  
How lucky am I to have two hands capable of cleaning dishes?!

And so, I am challenging you to practice gratitude and presence while at work this week. Be meditative especially in tasks you normally try to escape from. Notice the space you hold, notice textures, smells, colors. Notice that you are capable, and are privileged for your life and all that it holds. Does anything shift for you? Is the job easier or more pleasant?

Can gratitude help us to stay present?

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