Friday, December 9, 2011

Sacred in the Ordinary

"Your work is to discover your world, and then with all your heart give yourself to it" 
~Gautama Buddha

I'm finally done my chores, and now I can sit back, relax, read, write, or do nothing at all. I'm done folding the laundry, doing the dishes, cleaning the kitchen floor, I still need to take the trash out, but that can wait till tonight.

I never thought I'd say this, but I actually enjoy doing the dishes these days. Standing at the kitchen sink, looking over the geranium plant, out into the infinite blue sky, fluffy grey clouds, thousands of tiny black birds noisily flying across, it's always a different scene - alive and flowing. The water from the faucet, a steady stream, warm and soothing on my hands, I wash the dishes at a slow pace, no rush, no hurry.
There's something about the monotony of these chores that is somehow soothing. Picking up a piece of clothing from the laundry basket, folding it, and putting it on top of the pile of folded ones, then reaching for the next one, fold, set aside, then the next one, and the next one, and so on. Just like putting my attention on breathing during meditation, I'm pouring all my attention into this one movement - reaching, folding, putting it aside, reaching, folding, putting it aside.
Or when I'm sweeping the floor, starting at one corner and ending up at the other, gathering dust along the way, the same motion rhythmically repeating, over and over again, until I end up with a clean floor. It reminds me of the monks raking the stones in a Zen rock garden, the monk's complete concentration on the one movement, starting at the center and repeating it again and again until he reaches the outer edge, and a crisply raked garden.

The monotony is soothing, and the process very satisfying, but it's also satisfying to see a clean kitchen floor at the end of the process, a neat pile of folded laundry, or a clean, empty kitchen sink.

I try not to groan about my chores anymore, but wait for when I get time to do them slowly and peacefully. Like my great grandmother always said - anything that needs to be done is worth doing well. She was a strong, independent woman, and loved and worshiped God - she believed work is God, and lived it. She knew what she was talking about.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Peace is a Process

"Peace is not something you wish for; it's something you make,  something you do, something you are, and something you give away." ~Robert Fulghum

It's funny how everything boils down to thoughts - this seems to be the repeating theme in my journal, and yet I fall for the feelings that the thoughts dredge up, I buy into the emotions that the thoughts stir. Contentment and complaints are both products of my thoughts, but time and time again, I link them to my situation and surroundings.

I thought I was content a couple of days ago - everything seemed plain-sailing. And today, even though nothing's changed in my situation or circumstances, there are a few ripples on the surface - all my old dreams of where and how my life "should" be. And I start feeling that old uneasiness that things are not quite right. Two things keep coming up - quitting my job and doing something more contemplative; and living my life in solitude. And because I'm not able to do either of these, I feel like I'm doing something wrong and build up resentment.

Last night I was looking through some of Byron Katie's work to pass along to Mia, and it turns out that I needed to get those messages more than Mia. Byron Katie quickly broke down my "shoulds" into what they really are - just thoughts. My "heart's desire" (her phrase) is still what I want to do, but the discontent caused by my thoughts is what I can do without.

Because these dreams are my my soul's longings, I know it is just a matter of timing when they will come true - whether it's now, a little later, or in a different lifetime. Of course I want it all now, but who am I to question God's timing? He's proven time and time again that His timing is impeccable. But in my own humble way, I'll continue to keep my heart and path open to opportunity, continue to be grateful for what I get, rather than groan about what I don't have. This is my way to contentment, at least for this day.