Aug 3rd, 2011
A member of our Sangha asked whether cleaning the kitchen while listening to music is not "Zen" enough. He used to believe that "Zen" (whatever that is) means spending one's every waking moment, morning to night, doing one action at one time with total attention and mindfulness.
Hmmm. Well, there are certainly moments when we practice in such way ... when drinking tea, just drinking tea ... when walking, just walking ... when seeing a sunset, just experiencing/being this. But not every moment need be so.
So, please sometimes clean while listening to music and drinking iced tea too ... or sometimes clean while watching t.v. or phoning a friend.
Please also sometimes clean while not listening to music etc. etc., just being present with the cleaning, one action at one time with total awareness.
Both fine ways to clean ... try each from time to time.
Ya see, some might think that cleaning while doing something else is not being "present in the moment" enough. But when are we not "present right in this moment"?
What makes you think that that cleaning while music listening and thinking about overdue bills to pay or your pesky boyfriend is not your complete present too? Just be present and totally aware of that! It is your instant "in the kitchen listening to 'tunes while thinking about bills and the boyfriend" just this present! How did you want to be more in the present? Why were you rejecting this "kitchen-music-bills-boyfriend" present to try to be somewhere else, perhaps in some other "more present than my present" present?
Oh, I am not saying that it is good to be always multi-tasking, swept up in a mix of activities and busy thoughts. I am just saying that it is lovely and very human to be like that much of our day, perfectly fine and natural. At other times, drop all that ... find simplicity, awareness of this present moment, one action at one time, and just do that! Live each way, each in its proper moment.
There is a time to stop and smell the roses ... there is a time to be totally mindful and "do one thing at one time with total attention" ... and there are times to do ten things at once, and just be totally "present" with that.
This practice is never about "leaving the present to be present with the present" ... but just to be presently present with what the present presents as a gift-wrapped present.
Everything in its proper time. There are times to be in the present experiencing fully just the present, and times to be in the present which is thinking about tomorrow or something that happened last Tuesday. Push none of it away.
Oh, in Zen practice, we come to find a kind of inner switch that we can push to be "IN THE NOW" when appropriate, when we want to be. But it is not a switch to push constantly ... because then the richness of this life can be missed in other ways.
BUT DOES THAT MEAN THAT ONE CAN JUST CLEAN THE KITCHEN ANY OLD WAY ONE WISHES AND IT'S STILL 'ALL GOOD PRACTICE'? ABSOLUTELY NOT! One thing to completely master in cleaning a kitchen the "Zen Way" ... whether just cleaning to clean as the one and only activity in all time and space ... or just cleaning while listening to tunes, drinking tea and chatting on the phone ... is this vital way of being, to wit:
In all cases, clean diligently to attain making the room clean, while simultaneously dropping all thought of "clean vs. dirty" and anything to attain.
Also, even though part of your heart may wish to be on a sunny beach on a tropical island instead of spending one's precious time cleaning a dirty kitchen, simultaneously drop any thought of somewhere else to be or where you need/can be.
Such truly being "one with the moment just as it is" is much more vital to our practice than whether one is listening to tunes, talking on the phone or not ... than being totally focused on the moment.
Today’s Sit-A-Long video follows at this link. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 15 to 35 minutes is recommended.