Sunday, May 02, 2010

Ordinary Opportunities to be Happy

By Judith England

It’s easy to get lured into the trap of thinking that we need to do something “special” if we want to grow spiritually. I agree that the discipline of a regular practice in yoga and meditation is essential, as is taking time periodically for a longer retreat of some sort.

But other than that, all the we need to fuel our progress is right here in our families, friendships, jobs, and the rest of the stuff of daily life. Never mind going on a trek to some far-away mountain cave, meditating for hours, eating nothing but nuts and berries. My guess is that it’s a greater challenge to remain compassionate and mindful while trying to car pool with four 12 year olds, balance a checkbook, or remain attentive as an elderly relative tells you the same story you’ve heard so many times you know it by heart.

The March 2010 issue of Shambhala Sun Magazine was filled with articles addressing how to bring Mindfulness Practices to our relationships, communication and work – even that most routine, seemingly endless activity we call “Housework”.

Reading Karen Maezen Miller’s little gem “Do Dishes, Rake Leaves” I’m reminded of how satisfying the work of home care and maintenance can be. Of sure, I don’t mean to wax eloquent about folding laundry, or scrubbing toilets, but being able to create order from disarray or show care for my surroundings pleases me. Even the fact that chaos will soon return, dust will again accumulate, or the clean dish will become dirty doesn’t really matter. I do it for others so they feel at ease in my home. I do it for myself because my thoughts feel more orderly in a well-ordered environment.

There is truth in the statement that all work, done with intention and awareness, has value. As Maezen Miller writes: “Nothing is worth the measure we give it, because worth doesn’t really exist. It is a figment of our judging minds, an imaginary yardstick to measure the imaginary value of imaginary distinctions, and one more way we withhold ourselves from the whole enchilada of life that lies before us.”

Just yesterday I picked up my favorite broom to sweep the maple tree droppings from the deck. This morning, those efforts were completely undone. I picked up the broom again, and began to sweep. The sun was warming the day, birds clustered around the feeders for breakfast, my dogs were enjoying the grass and fresh air. The physical work felt good in my arms and shoulders, my breathing got deeper with the exercise. Does it really matter that tomorrow I may need to do it again?

Incorporated in the article, Maezen Miller shares a list, “10 Tips for a Mindful Home”. I share it now with you:

Wake with the sun
There is no purer light than what we see when we open our eyes first thing in the morning.

Mindfulness without meditation is just a word.

Make your bed
The state of your bed is the state of your head. Enfold your day in dignity.

Empty the hampers
Do the laundry without resentment or commentary and have an intimate encounter with the very fabric of life.

Wash your bowl
Rinse away self-importance and clean up your own mess. If you leave it undone, it will get sticky.

Set a timer
If you’re distracted by the weight of what’s undone, set a kitchen timer and, like a monk in a monastery, devote yourself wholeheartedly to the task at hand before the bell rings.

Rake the leaves
Rake, weed, or sweep. You’ll never finish for good, but you’ll learn the point of pointlessness.

Eat when hungry
Align your inexhaustible desires with the one true appetite.

Let the darkness come
Set a curfew on the internet and TV and discover the natural balance between daylight and darkness, work and rest.

Sleep when tired
Nothing more to it.

—Karen Maezen Miller

From the March 2010 issue of Shambhala Sun.

When it comes to mindfulness, ordinary opportunities make the ordinary truly special.

Peace- Judi England, RN, LMT, Kripalu Yoga Instructor –

Judith England writes the "Holistic Health" blog for the Times Union in Albany, N.Y. "Holistic Health" is a blog that is well worth bookmarking!

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