In the previous chapter, I described a way how to expand our MR training beyond the secure and quiet environment of our practice room. We began with walking in a pleasant park or forest and finished with visiting one of the insane temples of capitalism – shopping malls. Probably the more insane on a bigger scale would be a stock market, but I have no personal experience being there, so I leave it to your imagination.
Though walking around is important, but it is not all that we do in life. Note that activities that I described in Practicing outdoors do not require too much thinking, problem-solving and making decisions. The only significant difference between that and sitting during our preparatory practice is that we walk and experience a lot more of perceptions and perform simple motions move our legs and hands in
However, we do not spend our lives being not involved in physical and intellectual activities. On the contrary, an active lifestyle is a norm. So, we have to learn how to combine our ordinary, everyday activities with MR.
Before providing more specific recommendations, it is necessary to realize that the number of thought processes required for performing the majority of our everyday household tasks is large. However, it is not always evident because, during these activities, we often are immersed in thinking about topics, which has very little to do with tasks at hand. To realize that, there is required a closer look at what actually happens.
I will begin by presenting a simple activity, hopefully, known by everyone, namely tooth brushing. It will be followed by a description of two other everyday household tasks with which many readers are, probably, somewhat familiar, namely dishwashing by hand and loading a dishwasher. I have chosen these occupations because they are common, so I hope each reader has some direct experience with, at least, one of them. If not, you may choose one and try it.
Before examining each of them individually, we should look at our usual attitude toward such activities. It does not take too much effort to discover that they (with the possible exception of watering plants) are often viewed as mundane, uninteresting, something we would like to finish as quickly as possible. This attitude is well-expressed by calling them “household chores,” which asserts that they are of a lower category than, for example, reading a book or listening to music. This attitude is deeply ingrained due to the social stratification brought from the era when only privileged ones who could effort to be involved in purely intellectual activities. In contrast, the housed chores were left to the servants.
Because of that, we pay little attention to such kind tasks, and once they are more or less mastered, we perform them while our mind wanders all over the universe.
For that reason, they appear to be well suited as an entry for expanding MR training into our everyday life. We must not forget that the overall purpose of this training is “wisdom living,” so we have to learn to stay in MR state during all life situations; otherwise, the practice becomes another mental or spiritual exercise.
We begin with this simple and common task with which every civilized person is familiar: brushing teeth. First, let us assume that we are using a manual brush (this does not mean that I hold prejudice against electric ones). Most people start by watering the brush and then putting some toothpaste. Surprisingly, we already face two decisions: how hot should be the water and how much toothpaste to use. During our practice, we can notice these decisions and use each of them as an opportunity to return to MR. It helps us to discover that we can be aware of any decision.
The next ones concern how we brush: down-up, up-down or horizontally, how intense pressure we apply on the brush, how long we keep brushing, and similar ones.
These decisions are made very quickly, and since we do them for years, usually, we do not notice them and go on thinking about the next phase of brushing or something hardly related to what we are doing. In this case, MR practice reminds us to “wake up” and return to nowness.
Dishwashing by hand
Now we present a task which is so common, that most likely, everyone is familiar with it: hand washing dishes. For those who never tried that, in the next section is presented using a dishwasher though even that needs occasional hand washing.
If we have a sink with two containers, first of all, we have to decide which of two methods to use: dedicated one container to washing to which we add the detergent, or putting some detergent on a sponge or washing cloth and use it individually. In either case, while washing a specific item, we have to decide if it is sufficiently clean or requires more laborious scrubbing or using something else for more stubborn dirt. It obviously involves the use of thinking.
After washing, we have to place the rinsed dishes onto a drying rack. In spite that it looks trivially simple, it still requires decisions where to put them so them in such a way that we can fit all. However, if we are well experienced in such an activity, these thoughts may pass unnoticed. In such situations, we often switch on our own “automatic pilot” and do the manual actions while thinking about something else. In such a case, our MR practice faces a hard challenge: we have to realize that it is so and return to the state of MR. To emphasize: the only thoughts needed are those used for making decisions and coordination of movements.
Using a dishwasher
This section is dedicated to those who have experience with a dishwasher. I decided to include it because it is particularly well suited for doing something fairly common and practical while frequently returning to the state of mind rest. It requires more intellectual effort than washing dishes by hand, presented in the previous section.
It appears paradoxical because intellect is strongly associated with this thinking. However, I would like again to remind the reader that thinking is a natural phenomenon, a manifestation of the energy of mind provoked by a variety of factors and, if used when it is really needed, does not contradict MR. However, it becomes an obstacle when we indulge in it and pursue habitually ingrained concepts rooted in the attachment to possessiveness and domination.
Coming back to dishwasher, operating it involves the following activities: placing the dirty dishes correctly, putting into it a washing capsule (all dishwashers are using that system for many years), closing it and pressing proper buttons to start.
First, one of these activities is the most challenging: we cannot put severely dirty dishes and expect that the machine will do the rest. Therefore, most of the dishes have to, at least, be rinsed, and some additionally scrubbed. So we already face a few decisions. Since there are no studies about how to do it – we have to use our intelligence and discernment. Also, we learn t how not to make the same mistake again.
After each of these mini-decisions, we do some manual action like rinsing scabbing and putting an item in the proper place. As all dishwasher users know, there are upper and lower “shelves,” and you have to place given items on the appropriate shelf.
Since I do not intend to provide an introduction for using a dishwasher, I think it is enough. To summarize: all of these activities offer an excellent opportunity to learn how to include MR into our everyday life. Each of the mentioned above, mini-decisions and mini-action provide us with a chance to notice it and rest our mind.
This chapter presents three ordinary situations involved with routine maintenance of the household. Of course, there are many, many more which we could discuss, but those seem to be enough to form the critical conclusions about how to use and integrate such everyday life activities into our MR training.
First of all, let us look at our attitude. To stress what was already mentioned, we should approach such tasks as an opportunity rather than chores, which we would like to avoid or to “be done with.” But it is not easy since it is a part of a more general attitude making us reluctant to do something which we consider repetitive, simplistic and familiar. However, from a more profound point of view, nothing is repetitive – each individual experience is different.
But, even we intellectually agree with this more positive attitude, it is not sufficient. It is the role of MR practice to show it to us directly and experientially.
Each of those supposedly mundane tasks has several aspects in common: first, it requires a multitude of minute decisions that we do without noticing that. Even if we have done something many times, within such a routine are hidden decisions: for example, we never put precisely the same amount of toothpaste on the brush, we never can find a plate exactly as dirty as other, etc.
No matter how insignificant these decisions may appear, they require a moment of waking up, followed by thoughts about how to solve the problem which this decision concerns. However, the thinking process involved is often so short that we tend to believe that it was not there. But, if we become aware of it, then we have a natural opportunity to return to the state of rest. After gaining experience of practicing MR in that manner, both realization of thoughts and returning to the state of rest become very quick and smooth. Then it appears that the state of rest is not interrupted at all. After reaching such a level, we could say that given activity became an integral part of our practice.
Yet, numerous decisions need more thinking before we make them. For example, while loading the dishwasher, we have to decide if a particular pot should be placed there or washed by hand. Because such decisions require longer thinking, they are easier to notice, so we have a better chance to notice it and return to MR.
All household maintenance tasks need performing manual actions that need two kinds of perceptions: visual and tactual, which must be coordinated. They are much more complex and varified than those which we encountered during walking, and they need much more learning. However, once the learning has been accomplished, we do them with a minimal amount of thoughts. From the MR training viewpoint, they become challenging: we may perform them mechanically thinking about something completely unrelated. On the other hand, if we are are a priory aware of such a “danger” and decide to “catch” the moment when we become a human-robot, then it is possible instead, to rest our mind in awareness while performing these actions.
Before ending, I will re-state the main points. Number one, which is critically important, is our attitude to, seemingly insignificant, household activities. We can treat them as a unique opportunity to extend our MR practice rather than painful chores.
Number two is to look closer at what we do and notice a multitude of small decisions that are involved. They are flashes of the dynamic energy of mind, which are its natural reaction to other events taking place in this situation. By doing it consistently, eventually, these decisions become an integral part of MR practice.
Number three concerns ongoing coordination of mind and body during simple activities that, after being learned, are not noticed anymore. Here we should be aware of going into the robotic mode immersed in the dreamland of irrelevant thoughts. Instead, we can of be aware of this, and we continue remaining in the natural state of mind resting