Friday, August 8, 2014

Washing The Dishes

Zen Master Ian

Over twenty-five years ago I browsed the campus bookshop at Cornell University and picked up a few books - on my parents' tab - that weren't in my curriculum. 

I still have most of them with me today.  Maybe I should have added them to my curriculum when I had the chance but back then I was conquering the world and only mildly interested in all this hippy shit as more of a lifestyle statement than an actual path to personal change.  What was there to change?  I was eighteen and perfect!

I have yet to understand most of them to this day.  The Vedas?  Upanishads?  Uh huh.  Good thing I ran into that Indian man (from New Jersey!) in the Atlanta Airport that day five years ago and had to spend eight hours in line with him during the snowstorm.  He directed me to a better version of the Bhagavath Gita and so at least I have a running start with that one.

What was a little white girl doing buying Indian spiritual books in Ithaca, New York twenty-five years ago when she was supposed to be studying chemistry?

And why did it take another twenty years for the universe to strand her at the airport with just the right guy to point her in the right direction?

The other book I think of most is "The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practise of Meditation" by Thich Nhat Hanh.

I have only made it through the first eight pages in twenty-five years, but those pages stick with me.

Once I have mastered the simple principles outlined in them, I aim to go on to Chapter Two.

On page one Allen learns how to make all time his time by no longer dividing into time for work and time for family and time for bills and time for groceries.  He makes his time with his child count as his time.  And time spent with his wife count as his time.  So that he now has unlimited time for himself.

I get it. 

In theory.

And every now and then I even manage to make it work for me.

I think of eating the tangerine, described on page five, all the time.  Jim gets so excited talking and talking about the future that he has no idea that he has peeled and eaten a tangerine at the same time. 

It is about mindfulness and being one with the present moment and what is right in front of you.

I do try.

But this one about the dishes I really can't get my mind around at all.

"If while washing the dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not 'washing the dishes to wash the dishes.'  What's more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes.  In fact we are completely incapable of realising the miracle of life while standing at the sink.  If we can't wash the dishes, the chances are we won't be able to drink our tea either.  While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands.  Thus we are sucked away into the future - and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life."

On one hand, this is what I am doing all the time while maniacally driving the kids around and planning their schedules and figuring out how to get two soccer matches and a dance rehearsal into one Saturday.  Before 11;00 am.  And setting up Ryan with a horse and the opportunities for a future in the equine industry.  Andrew with a possible soccer career.  Because the engineering just seems cut out for no good - why are they learning about roads and bridges?  To help the mining industry?  What about sustainable fuels and renewable energy sources?  Someone has to make batteries smaller and more practical to use.  They did it with silicon chips.  Oh - and dance, if the soccer doesn't work out. 

Ian and I go to the library and to gym time and music time to give him the best foundation to build upon for his future.

The future.  I am bound to the calendar and to the future, and am unable to live in the present.  I get that.

It's the part about the dishes that bothers me.

I don't want to be alive to do the dishes.

I agree wholeheartedly that "we are completely incapable of realising the miracle of life while standing at the sink."  Or in the kitchen at all for that matter.

I feel that I am only alive to be doing the dishes.

And I feel that there are better things I could be doing - with the kids, with my husband, for the world, for myself - than the dishes.

I get the whole living in the present thing, I really do, but I still don't see the part about obligation to the effin' dishes.

Maybe I'm not humble enough.

Maybe I have to go back and reread Chapter One. 

Problem is:  I have to go and wash the bloody dishes!

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