What is it about small tasks that make people dread them so much? Cleaning the car, tidying the room, taking out the trash, walking the dog, mowing the lawn – what makes most of the living population hate these small everyday chores so much that they are forced to divide them amongst people they share the roof with?
There is a Zen Buddhist saying, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water”
What this means in the simplest form is this – you are your highest self when you be who you normally are (not the facade you wear to work, social gatherings) and perform the simple tasks that constitute everyday living be it doing the dishes or paying the bills. It’s the nature of your ego to make sure your mind eludes the here and now, in hope of something better or easier or fancier.
If you ever visit a Buddhist monastery, don’t expect to find the monks sitting in meditation all day. In supplement to actual sitting the monks sweep, wash, clean, undertake building repairs, feed the animals, clean the animal shelters and cook. Why? Because the intent is to find PRESENCE at all times in all things – every task has its Buddha nature, every moment has Buddhahood. But for you to experience it, you first need to bring your mind back in the here and now.
What’s the point of your half hour of daily meditation (or) yoga (or) prayer (or) workout (or) [fill-what-ever-you-want-here] if you don’t even realize the sacredness of small tasks? The one who truly realizes this sacredness does not have to sit in zazen (seated meditation) for he does not have to seek. He walks amongst the clouds and experiences eternal bliss in every living moment of his existence.
Being lost in your actions and being in the moment rids you of any compulsions to watch the time and the task doesn’t feel like a burden anymore. The wood is chopped but on its own, the water is carried but by itself. In this strange paradoxical state you DO, but you DON’T. And slowly from the doer you become the observer as life just happens. In Taoist terms this state is referred to as the FLOW.
We all experience being in this FLOW like state on numerous occasions at different points in our lives. Truly being lost in the moment not realizing how time passed comes when you do what you like (a hobby), perform group activities, play sports, video-games etc. But how can one cultivate being in this state in tasks one doesn’t enjoy (or rather detests).
Well, the biggest key to unlock this mystery is dissolving the illusion of TIME itself. But let’s keep that for another day shall we? Because now I’ve got to get back to chopping some wood and carrying some water 😉