When will we learn to live?

  • I read a portion of “The Miracle of Mindfulness” and have realized I have lost this ability to just “be.” I used to practice this. Being alone with myself and my thoughts/senses whether it was while doing chore, a project or sitting with a cup of tea and regardless of whether there was anyone else present. Now I spread myself thin with multitudes of things to do that I am not doing well. This whole idea of doing more than one thing at once is for the birds and yet the birds do not practice it. Nature and the natural world do only one thing at a time; “be”, otherwise known as living or the new phrase: “living in the moment.”

    Why did we feel there was a need to redefine it? What is the difference between living and living in the moment? None!

    The difference is between living and doing. If you practice doing more than one thing at a time, you are doing and NOT living. Oh, you’re not dead yet but you are not living either, you are just doing things, going through the motions, taking care of business.

    What is it you are trying to get out of the way? Work, obligations, responsibilities, tasks, life? And throughout this time of doing, your mind is wondering on the next task and what else needs to be done and how nice it will be when you are done doing and can take a break and just “be.” When exactly will you be done with doing?

    That for many of us is the grand desire for a vacation. But what do we then do with our vacation? Fill it up with things to do, to accomplish along with a whole list of things to do before vacation and things to prepared for vacation and schedules to adhere to….We have learned to add into the vacation an extra day at home so we can relax and rejuvenate from the vacation and well…end up spending most of that day putting things away and getting things ready for going back to work and school and perhaps that cup of tea. We enjoyed our vacation but it was expensive and time consuming from a work perspective and exhausting and well…it will be a whole other year before we can afford to do it again. Wonder what we will do next year and so on goes the struggle for finding the time for living.

    I use to say we spend our entire childhood wishing we were adults so we can finally do whatever we want and our entire adulthood wishing we were children again so we could spend our time doing whatever we want. So in essence, we spend our entire lives doing what we don’t want and wishing for what we do want. What if we spent our time living, regardless of what we are doing?

    The book noted at the beginning of this narrative has a passage about washing the dishes (note it does not describe “doing” the dishes.) Well most of you probably have a dishwasher for that sort of thing and you despair at the time you waste loading and unloading it. Well, maybe you should wash the dishes. Not to get it done but to wash them and do them honor.

    Why would anyone wish to honor their dishes? Unless, of course they are very special expensive china you use on a special occasion which so far has turned out to be once. Anyway, honor the plates and utensils you use for your sustenance. Use it as a time to reflect on your abundant life. You have dishes, you most probably have too many dishes and they fill your cupboard to overflowing when you really only have a need for a few that are used once or twice a day. The extras are for company or in case you break one, right? This need for more is really a separate issue so let me move on.

    While washing the dishes; love the way they feel clean and rinsed. The way the soap suds slide across the plate and the way the clean water reveals your face reflected in its moist depths. Admire how it peels across the surface as it drips into the bowl below. Note the breeze on your face as a breath of wind comes in through the open window in front of you.

    Please note that kitchens used to be designed with a window over the sink so that one could look out from it and take note of the season and the climate and the passersby, both human and animal, as one washed the dishes. This design is no longer in fashion as it is felt wasted since the dishwasher is no longer human and very little time is now spent in front of the sink. So if you happen to have one of this design, count yourself blessed and wash the dishes.

    Make of it a delight of the senses. Feel the soapy water, the distinct difference between the dirty surface and the now clean surface, the shine on the silverware, how your reflection in a spoon is upside down and the wonder of that concave surface property, then turn it around and take note of the convex surface. Luxuriate in the feel of the water on your skin in the heated water and the exhilaration of the splash of cold as you rinse. Smell the fresh water, the hints of season in the air, the remains of scent from the dinner served. Hear the sounds of the dishes as they clink together in the sink or the finality of their resting place as you set them in the drying rack.

    I won’t ask you to taste anything unless you want to but the point is to make of this task a delight of the senses and revel in it as well as being grateful that you have allowed yourself to live during your time at said task. Breath and be. Live for that moment of splendor and exquisite peace of oneness with your task.

    I write this not as an incentive on how one can enjoy washing the dishes or any other task but completely from memory. I remember what washing the dishes was like when I was a child and knew how to live!


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