How to Make Everyday Tasks into Mindful Practice
My grandfather used to come home smelling of sun, damp earth and leaves. He would place in my hand, fresh berries, a wildflower, or sprigs of medicinal herbs he happened to come across the forest floor. No one loved nature more than my grandfather. He believed everything of nature carried a purpose.
He is gone now. So is his farm near the Mekong.
I tried to summon him while I was pulling weeds from the yard. I was in real need of a mind shift. When I do household chores, I’m often in danger of complaining.
Complaining is an act of stealing from gratitude.
I didn’t know this at the time but the reason my grandfather tended to his farm so lovingly and cheerfully was that every small chore was a means to a larger purpose. Feeding chickens, tending to his water buffaloes, mending nets, repairing leaky roofs. He viewed none of these tasks as inconveniences or unworthy of his attention. He gave them the same importance and focus as he did in dealing with people. In whatever task he was doing, his mind was never elsewhere nor did he complain. For my grandfather, work of any kind was a reflection of the person he was inside.
When you do something with intention, the acts of doing have a way of elevating beyond their ordinariness.
Even a seemingly mundane, lowly act of pulling weeds, carries benefits beyond your obvious need to have a nice lawn and a manicured yard:
- It is good mindfulness practice. It focuses your attention on the present moment.
- It is a physical activity that eliminates stress.
- You get to burn a few calories while enjoying the outside.
- It can be used as a releasing exercise to rid yourself of negativity. For example, as I pull the weeds, I say this mantra: “I am pulling poverty thoughts from my life.”
I also have a healthy respect for weeds. If they were to have the characteristics of people, I would admire them for these strengths:
- They persist. If you ignore them, they love it. They multiply, grow stronger, take roots. Dare I say it? They grow like weeds!
- They have a healthy sense of their place in the world. No matter how fancy your garden, they make themselves right at home.
- Ability to thrive against adversity. Go on, spray them with weed killers. More will come to take their place.
- They are determined. Unless you are willing to put in the time and effort, they will take a stronghold of your garden, and you will find it that much harder to get rid of them. They are determined to win.
What greater lessons have you learned from seemingly mundane chores?