Friday, June 24, 2011

Work is Prayer: cultivating gratitude in everything

How do you live this, teach this, and even begin to understand this?
I just finished this painting, (which is painted after and inspired by one of my favorite albums to do massage to). Its in the kitchen over the sink, because we don't have a dishwasher, and I'm not a fan of doing dishes. Three or four or five times a day.

Ethan and Bodhi both asked me, what does "Work is Prayer" mean? Explaining this esoteric concept to myself was dificult enough. Wording it for adults was still a challenge. Eplaining it to a 7 and a 9 year old in a way that they could grasp made it come very clear to me.

I think on the simple level about the problem of the dishes. There are dishes. I don't want to wash them. But there is the fact that I am healthy, my kids are healthy. We have a home and a kitchen and food to cook. We have the means to buy food that is healthy for our bodies.

The dishes exist because of the bounty we live in. There are blessings all around, from the big sloping lawn outside my windows to the stream that flows down it from the trout pond where the kids like to swim.

When I look at the dishes, if I can cultivate gratitude for the task ahead of me, for whatever portion of it I can latch onto, maybe first just that they exist because I've fed my kids and I'm glad to have done that, maybe next that I'm healthy and able to stand and work, and then finally, to find peace, grace, and gratitude in the act of washing.

I think it comes down again to acceptance and wishing. If I wish the dishes did not need doing or did not exist, I'm adding to my suffering. I'm working reluctantly. If I accept that the dishes exist, my wishing isn't going to change that, and so accept the present moment as it is, with neither positives nor negatives, blessings or curses, it is just this moment with everything existing in the world in this moment as it does, I am suddenly free.

Free to call up gratitude for life, for growth, for work, and watch my hands make the dishes clean, taking pride in the thorough job, observing how my heart transforms when I do a task that I'm not fond of with willingness and without judgement.

Work becomes meditation, or prayer. It is a privilege, an opening, a growth, a place of gratitude unfolding.

It is a moment to practice for moments that "really" count. For those moments when you have to wash the dishes of your life, your love, your relationships. When you have to accept the present moment as it is when that present moment may include heart break, loss, love, pain, or joy.

Its a moment of gratitude. Now, if I can just get Ethan to understand that when he has to take the trash out...


Jongira said...

What a wonderful post! Glad to have read it, with your insight, tolerance, and wisdom... I've missed this sort of positive meditation, from which I take strength, and which shows your strength and integrity.

“We're frightened of what makes us different.”

- J

Anonymous said...

Beautifully said, Kate! Your kids are lucky to be exposed to this way of thinking so young. Through our kids we can have our biggest impact on the world.