―Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind
Making an effort to let go the mental chatter and emotional grey clouds that dominated my attention, I began to focus on the physical sensations and sensory impressions I was experiencing. Staying present, moment to moment, I noticed that the warmth of the water felt wonderful on my hands in the chill morning air. Moving slowly and carefully, the tactile sensations of plates becoming slick, smooth to the touch, was not only enjoyable, it was deeply satisfying. Taking a moment to pause and expand my attention to the space around me, I came to my senses more fully. Eyes seeing, ears hearing, I noticed the sunshine streaming through the window was creating momentary diamonds in the water pouring from the faucet. There were emeralds, rubies, and sapphires dancing in the soap bubbles. Beyond the soothing sound of my mechanical mini-waterfall, a cardinal began to sing in the tree outside the window. Washing the dishes not only became tolerable, it felt magical, sacred.
What's not to like?
Cleaning up our Act
The routine tasks of daily living have been a staple of Zen Training throughout history. Although there is, of course, formal meditation and liturgy, manual work is highly valued. Fully engaged in what we are doing, we can refine our focus and concentration. When we are doing becomes our meditation, we have the opportunity access a qualitatively different state of mind. In the process, we can transform a dirty bathroom into the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha.
Like any form of Practice, with time and careful attention, something shifts. Letting the thoughts and feelings come and go without paying them undue attention, being present to what our body is experiencing, we come more fully into the present moment. Mindful of the movement of our body, aware of the tactile sensations we are experiencing, connected to the sights, sounds and odors of the task at hand, we can open the gate to the Limitless Awareness that is always present. If we are really paying attention, there are times that the miraculous nature of life becomes self-evident.