Mindfulness Practiced in Chores
So I realized yesterday as I was scrambling around the house cleaning, that I could really do double duty while doing those mundane chores. What do I mean by that? Well I found that my mind tried to focus on my surroundings, even though I knew I had to get a chore done. I had to slow down to process what my mind and body were trying to communicate. I found myself gazing out the kitchen window watching the birds fly around. Then I saw the trees blowing in the wind, the leaves tumbling across the grass. The feel of the bubbles, the warmth of the water, was soothing and relaxing. I found myself washing dishes, yet admiring the beauty and events outside my window and in my hands. Before I knew it, the dishes were done and instead of dreading another chore on my list, I embraced moving to the next. I saw the housework as an opportunity to be mindful of my day, to be present in the moment, and not dread what else was ahead. In essence, I can meditate while working; mindfulness practiced in chores!
Does it sound strange to find peace washing the dishes or folding laundry? It does if you look at it in a shallow light. Rushing through like it is a dreaded chore, only leaves a storm like aftermath in your body. The chore is felt and absorbed as stress. But really, that time is generally alone time, a perfect opportunity to clear your mind, breathe deep, and perhaps focus on a mantra for healing or peace within. It allows you to appreciate the time you have, no matter how you are spending it.
Thích Nhất Hạnh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist. He once wrote that he washes dishes with as much care as he would if he were bathing the newborn Buddha: “If I am incapable of washing dishes joyfully, if I want to finish them quickly so I can go and have a cup of tea, then I will be incapable of drinking the tea joyfully.” How you treat the present moment will affect the future moments. Wise thought; Be present and mindful of how you throw yourself into chores.
He gives you a new perspective on chores, right? I cannot recall how many dishes I have broke trying to rush, or bulldoze through getting the dishes done. I am pretty sure that there was no urge to sit and enjoy a cup of tea after doing so either. Thoughts drift to the ‘other’ chores on my list. Plus, the darn tea cup was probably my poor victim during the cleaning tornado, too!
Slow down. I have mentioned that chore time can be alone time, but it doesn’t have to be. If you can share that time with a child, or children, it gives you an opportunity to teach valuable lessons. The first lesson is that of responsibility. Chores are a parents way to encourage independence, team work, and self care. Sharing that time to teach techniques to complete the job, gives you a bonding moment too. However, I see that teaching moment as a gifted time to share meditation or mindfulness. You should be completely aware of the chore you are doing and teaching. Again be present and conscious of your thoughts and actions. Mindful. Teach the chores to kids to engrain a ritual of responsibility and inadvertently teach meditation and mindfulness.
I think that sometimes we get caught up looking into the future, and do not live in the present moment. If we cannot clear our mind and stop thinking of other things, we are incapable of living in that minute of life, enjoying that cup of hot tea in our hands. You have to be alive in that moment. This practice of mindfulness or meditation during chores, strips us of the ‘I don’t have time’ excuse too!
“When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going in deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh