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.
Thich Nhat Hanh,
The Miracle of Mindfulness
When we meditate we are able to begin to feel the stillness of our mind. We follow our mantra in the direction of pure Being, the thoughts becoming more and more subtle, our pulse and blood pressure calming, blood oxygen metabolism lowering. We rest, deeply and profoundly, taking on what we might call “adaptation energy,” our hormonal system replacing stress chemistry with bliss chemistry, our body unwinding long-held stresses, our mind being cleared out and prepared to meet the day. We become ready and fit to enjoy.
This is the true work of life: finding joy, discovering our capacity for bliss.
As we go out into the world, we can continue this work of finding bliss and joy. In meditation we have become present to our Self, the true Self that resides in that place of Being, deep within, beyond our thoughts; and now, established in that identity, we can move out into our day and become present. Present to ourselves, present to the world, our life force connecting the inner world to the outer world. This is where life is lived-this connection. This is where joy is available to us. Not in our thoughts, not in our speculation, not in our ‘figuring things out’ for some future time when happiness will be ours, but here and only here, in the present moment.
What a teacher like Thick Nhat Hanh can offer us from his perspective as a Buddhist monk is invaluable in our work to find the life we are meant to live. In this early book of his, he makes it clear that if we cannot find the way to enjoy simple acts like washing dishes, we never will be able to find the way truly to enjoy the accomplishment of our greatest dreams. The ability to enjoy comes first. It’s something we can practice. And as we practice it, the accomplishments through which our joy can be experienced and expressed will find us.
Today I will wash the dishes while I wash the dishes. I will walk as I take a walk. I will brush my hair as I brush my hair. I will take a breath, now, knowing that I am taking a breath.
Tree from Below, Landon Bay, Thousand Islands, Ontario, Canada