Work. What does the word mean to you? Is it something you try to avoid? Do you only see it as a means to an end? Is it a way to avoid the rest of your life? Or is it a joy? There is a Zen saying, “Before Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” What’s the difference? The tasks are the same. The need is the same. What about the frame of mind? Who is chopping the wood? Who is carrying water? What is really being asked is: Are you fully present?
When you work, strive to stay awake. Pay attention to your frame of mind. Do you approach work as if it were a nuisance? Are you filled with resentment or worry when you work? Or are you able to step fully into the moment and be “one” with the task you are undertaking?
I have found that it does little good for me to attain clarity of mind on a meditation cushion if I lose that clarity as soon as I’m up and active.
So with that in mind, I instead try to turn my daily tasks into meditations. Simple activities like brushing my teeth, ironing clothes, or washing dishes can easily be turned into a meditation that slows me down and pulls me fully into the moment. Paying attention to the thoughts that enter my mind when I am doing a task and then just letting them go can provide me with an inner calm and clarity far greater that just sitting on a cushion.
When I am cleaning a countertop, I focus on feeling the sponge in my hand. Then I observe how the sponge moves in my hand across the countertop. I try to move with fluid motions as if I were dancing with the sponge. Without letting my mind wander too far, I sometimes focus on being grateful for all the circumstances that helped me get to where I am at that moment with that sponge, the water, and that countertop.
Traveling to distant places can definitely be fun, and open and inspire my mind, but I have also found the same can be accomplished by just being fully present in the mundane moments of my everyday life. For it is only when I am fully present that I am able to see and fully experience the magic and joy of just being alive. When I am fully present, my mundane task becomes a vehicle for insight and an opportunity for me to recollect myself and move forward in a more conscious and compassionate way. When I am fully present my tasks are no longer a burden and I no longer feel burdened by them.
With this in mind, I invite you to explore some of the ICWIB art activities and videos for FREE because they are also wonderful way to pull you fully into the moment and unburden you from the burdens of life.