Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Washing the Dishes

I didn't get a photo of it, but today Blaine, Isaac, Clayton, and I washed some cups and plates and trays. Then, using shaving cream, we gave the tables a good scrubbing. Room 2 smelled like a barber shop and shone like a Sees Candy store by the time we were done.

Chores like these can be the occasion of great joy and satisfaction. As we worked I was reminded of a passage I read recently for my class on Voluntary Simplicity.

It is an excerpt from Present Moment, Wonderful Moment by Thich Nhat Hahn, 1990:

"To my mind, the idea that doing the dishes is unpleasant can occur to us only when not doing them. Once we are standing in front of the sink with our sleeves rolled up and our hands in warm water, it is really not bad at all. I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water, and each movement of my hands. I know that if I hurry in order to go and have dessert, the time will be unpleasant, not worth living. That would be a pity, for every second of life is a miracle. The dishes themselves and the fact that I am here washing them are miracles.

Each thought, each action in the sunlight of awareness becomes sacred. In this light, no boundary exists between the sacred and the profane. It may take a bit longer to do the dishes, but we can live fully, happily, in every moment. Washing the dishes is at the same time a means and an end—that is, not only do we do the dishes in order to have clean dishes, we also do the dishes just to do the dishes and live fully each moment while washing them.

If I am incapable of washing dishes joyfully, if I want to finish them quickly so I can go and have dessert and a cup of tea, I will be equally incapable of doing these things joyfully. With the cup in my hands, I will be thinking about what to do next, and the fragrance and the flavor of the tea, together with he pleasure of drinking it, will be lost. I will always be dragged into the future, never able to live in the present moment.


Culmom37 said...

"I know that if I hurry....That would be a pity, for every second of life is a miracle."

This quote alone has a very personal meaning to me. Since my brother has become ill, I have seriously learned to value each and every moment. I love life and want to enjoy it as much as possible. Washing dishes is a nice time to reflect on your day, let the children help and gain some quality time together or as simple as just enjoying the warm water.

Fast...that is how our lives have become. I would love for one night to have nothing to do but sit on the couch and just talk with my children and hubby. What a treat that would be! I wish I could do that on a daily basis, but alas, sports and 1st Communion and visiting my brother and ??? always seems to get in the way. The good news is that when I do get the opportunity to sit and be a "family" with no outside interruptions it is truly special and very meaningful.


Susan said...

I love this! Joy can be found in the smallest places. My 12 yr. old daughter was laughing at me doing the dishes the other day...every so often I'd tilt the dishsoap bottle upside-down then right side up. Squeeze the middle just alittle...tiny bubbles float out!
She said that I was acting like a child. I agreed and did it again.
What a great blog you have!

Dan Gurney, Mr. Kindergarten said...

Culmom, your quote gets to the heart of the matter. I think the Dalai Lama once said, "Hurrying does violence to time." I don't know if that's quite right, but hurrying certainly makes it difficult to enjoy the moment.

I'm taking a class in Voluntary Simplicity and it's helping me see how to slow down and simplify so as to find more of those precious moments. Like the old saw says, "The future is but a dream, the past but a memory. Now is the only real time and it is a gift: that's why we call it the present."

Susan, I am glad you enjoy this blog. Acting like a child can be a wonderful thing if you act like a wonderful (full of wonder) child.

From where I sit, bubbles are wonderful things, by the way, especially in that they clearly manifest impermanence, efficiency, and beauty.

Katherine said...

This philosophy resonates with me. A perfect fit. Thanks for reminding me. I forget sometimes.