Tag: meditation

Tree Reflected in a Tea Cup by Linda Aitkin

Organise Kindly

Advice on organising yourself or maintaining a household tends to focus on practical matters. Whether it be a foolproof system  for sorting an entire house or random tips and tricks, the emphasis is on getting the job done. Knowing “how to” perform an activity is certainly useful information. However for many people, it’s not a lack of knowledge and skill that gets in the way of housework harmony. If they are resisted and resented, daily household activities can easily become a chore to be endured, or a guilty omission to be swept under the carpet. The experience of cleaning, sorting and tidying is then regarded as unpleasant – an annoying distraction from the important things in life.

Yet many spiritual traditions make use of everyday activities as teaching tools. Unlike practical advice for getting things done, they focus on the process, rather than the outcome. Perhaps the most famous of these is Thich Nhat Hanh’s instructions on dishwashing.

While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes, which means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. At first glance, that might seem a little silly: why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that’s precisely the point. The fact that I am standing there and washing these bowls is a wondrous reality.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Doing a task for the experience of doing it, rather than to get it done, turns our expectations on their head. It doesn’t seem feasible to consider the washing up as a pleasurable activity, rather than an annoying impediment to watching TV or surfing the net. Yet there is something alluring about the possibility of any task being pleasurable, if approached with awareness. What is this wondrous reality awaiting us at the kitchen sink?

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the idea is to wash the dishes perfectly, as this turns the chore of washing the dishes into the chore of mindfulness. The idea is to be aware of what you are doing with kind attention, without fighting it, resisting it, or resenting it, or being so distracted that you miss it altogether.

What difference would it make if household activities were regarded as an opportunity to bring your attention to the quality of your actions, rather than the quantity of work you can get done. Could the caring attention that you want to bring to your family be right there in the act of folding washing, ironing uniforms, and taking out the garbage? Could the sense of peace, calm and loving attention that you long for be right there in the midst of whatever you are doing?


Quote from The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh.

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Presence-based Organising

Where are you when you organise things. Are you in the room, or are you in your head? Are you starting with what you see before you, or an idea or belief about how things should be?

If you are asking “Where should I start?” and “What should I keep?” it may be that these “shoulds” are separating you from the task and from yourself. Organising has become a mental exercise, and you are relating to imagined ideas about what an organised person would do, rather than tuning in to the reality of your own needs.

Organising from the head, without reference to the present moment, creates a gap between yourself as you truly are and the situation as it really is right now. While you are relating to the imaginary judge who knows better, you have become cut off from the ability to find your own solutions.

Presence based organising begins not with action, but with stillness. It draws your attention away from the whirl of thoughts in your mind into your own body, and into the room you are standing in. If you feel confused about where to start, take a moment to seek out that still space inside. If you can accept the situation as it is, without judgement or expectation, you create the possibility that a genuine impulse to act will arise.

Perhaps in this quiet moment you will know the first step to take. Perhaps you will understand that you need some help, and that it’s OK to ask. You may not have all the answers, but in a moment of clarity, free of the clutter of unnecessary expectations, you may understand what to do next.