Monday, April 10, 2017

Mini meditations

I can't remember the last time I used the dishwasher.  It was probably when our adult kids and grandkids were all visiting and a rising tide of dirty glasses, cookware and cutlery constantly flowed over the kitchen counters.

Normally when dishes need cleaning - as they do several times a day even with just the two of us at home - I clean them by hand.  A little dish soap, a thin washcloth, a green scrub pad, drying rack and compost bin are all I need to make fast work of a messy kitchen.

Dishwashing is one of many daily activities I think of as mini meditations. Instead of bemoaning the monotony of repetitive tasks like washing and drying dishes, chopping vegetables, brushing teeth, combing hair and hand-watering plants, I try to think of them as mental gateways to mini-vacations. Opportunities for my mind to unwind.

To me, those unpopular tasks provide a means to rest and relinquish woes. They are a chance to focus instead on the everyday pleasures of doing small jobs well. Instead of regretting the time it takes to get such chores done, I try to relish the relaxation mindless activities can provide.

It doesn't always work. Sometimes my mind is too boggled to focus on anything but the patchwork of worries in my head. Ironically, those are probably the times I need mini-meditations the most.

There's an old Zen saying, "You should sit in nature for 20 minutes every day unless you're busy...Then you should sit for an hour."

I'm not sure about the 'sitting' part, but I believe there's much to gain from any quiet, introspective time we manage to carve out of an increasingly challenging, crazy world.

Doing the dishes is a simple task. Its successful completion doesn't require a lengthy learning curve or strong skill base. It's also a repetitive task in need of attention several times each day. For those reasons alone, it's the perfect vehicle for meditative contemplation.

Recently, my son Toby and I were discussing the benefits of rumination. As a young twenty-something in search of a better balance in his daily life, he has undertaken a course of online meditations and found the program to be helpful.  Each 10-minute session is leading him closer to mental clarity and direction.

I've never taken a meditation course nor have been a practitioner of yoga yet I feel like I've been meditating for years.  Sometimes I drift off into contemplative mode while out in the lake rowing or while walking through the woods. At the beach, my early morning sunrise bike rides provide a similar effect.  Pulling weeds in the garden and watering plants clears my head while the constant supply of indoor chores also provides a means to escape mental chatter.

Sure, I can use the built-in dishwasher. But I don't want to. I'd rather soak my hands in hot water and suds and attack each platter individually. One-by-one. Lather. Scrub. Rinse. Repeat. If I use the electric dishwasher, my dishes are cleaned, but if I do them by hand, my mind is too.

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