Contemplation,  Wisdom

Being mindful of our intention and attention

When a Routine Kitchen Chore Leads To Awareness

Being mindful of our intention and attention. What we give our attention to affects the quality of our life.

Any activity can become a practice when you bring the intention of connecting fully to what is happening in and around you. Take, for example, the mundane household tasks of doing the dishes after each meal. Maybe it isn’t an issue for you, or perhaps you live with others, and you often are the one cleaning up. Sounds familiar?

Here you have several options:

You can leave the dishes for another day or someone else. After all, you have other plans for the evening.

You can go through the motions and get the task done as quickly as possible while resenting that you must do it. You want to get to that meditation class and can’t wait to get out of the kitchen. In the end, the dishes are clean, but wiping the table and rinsing the sink are left undone. And you are still angry. What would happen if you consciously transformed this vexing situation into a positive experience?

7 steps to transforming a chore into a moment of awareness and connection

  1. You look at the scene, everyone is gone, and there is a sink full of dirty dishes. First, take a full breath, then another, a third even. You realize how tense this makes you. Keep breathing as you organize the dishes, and fill the sink with warm soapy water. Slowly your fingers relax as you wash.
  2. Remember your intention to transform the situation into a positive experience.
  3. The task is not complicated, so you allow your thoughts and feelings to come to the surface. You are angry. You tell yourself you must speak to your family/ housemates about creating a cleaning schedule. You picture their resistance, think of a plan to get them involved and imagine a fair rota of house chores where everyone is being responsible.
  4. Excellent! Keep breathing.
  5. Now return to the present moment; you are almost done. You see the clean dishes neatly stacked, the soapy water needing rinsing and the crumbs still on the table. Finally, you finish the job, and when you turn off the light, the kitchen is ready for the next meal.
  6. So what happened there? It took a lot! Many conscious centering breaths, the clear intention to bring your entire being to a mundane task, and the willingness to shift everything. There are days when we can do it, and others we won’t even try.
  7. But when we do, the inner shift has cleared the tensions. We feel better. By consciously engaging in an activity, we have gained awareness of a troubling home situation and possibly found a solution. In this case, doing the dishes became our conscious practice.
Even with dishwashers at our disposal, the exercise is still relevant. Robots will soon do everything in the house, so the question is, what will we do with all this free time, and more importantly, how will we do it? It matters greatly.

“Before enlightenment chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment chop wood, carry water.”

 Zen Proverb

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