Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice



Inner Work

For the week of: March 11, 2002

Doing the Dishes

We inwardly sort life’s activities along a scale from the dull and insignificant to the exciting and important. The commonplace chores of life, like washing the dishes, along with the unusual but unwanted ones, like fixing the flat tire, impose their necessity on us. Our attitudes toward such tasks run the gamut from boredom and resentment to hurrying and anger. We may howl at the uncompromising gate of time that allows only one event in any given moment, driving us to forgo our preferences in favor of some bothersome drudgery. We may even rush through it or indulge in daydreams for the duration, doing our very best to escape the experience. We kill the time and, along with it, a part of our life.

The fact that time is a fleeting and precious commodity exactly defines the problem. We think that if we could just avoid the chore somehow, then we could use the time more profitably or more enjoyably. But no one has such a life. Everyone has unwelcome duties pressed upon him or her. So this leaves us too often having to make the best of the undesirable.

We might ask ourselves: “Can I turn this around?” Can I make presence one of my most important and interesting activities, even in life's humdrum corners? In meditation we find deep satisfaction, even though we accomplish nothing, at least outwardly. Washing the dishes is no worse, in terms of external accomplishment. Can I use the opportunity of washing dishes to wash my mind as well, to be present fully, and even more fully? Can I not just endure the boring chore, but enter it wholeheartedly, appreciating the opportunity to do something useful, even on a small scale? If the higher can act through us, then scale no longer matters. Washing one cup, paying one bill, fixing one flat -- they all matter because they all are necessary, they all restore or create order, especially if my inner life is order.

For this week, when it comes to chores, at work or at home, practice doing them with presence.


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