How to Get the Most Out of Your Chores Through the Power of Mindfulness and Everyday Activities

man holding orange electric grass cutter on lawn
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“Keep a calm demeanor, smile, and take deep breaths.”  – Thich Nhat Hanh’

I did something that is not typical of me last night. Please do not interrupt…

…I was in the kitchen last night.

Okay, to be really honest, I did more preparing than actual cooking here. My desire to take part in this home rite while my boyfriend presided over it was obviously not the usual, but it was something I wanted to do. Despite the fact that I can be rather obsessive when it comes to organizing and cleaning, cooking has never been one of my interests.

To begin with, I don’t spend much money on meals. I’d rather splurge on books and pedicures than on saffron and truffles if I had to choose between the two. I am aware that I could harness my inner Rachael Ray and learn to create meals that are favorable to the wallet, but a method that is even simpler would be to utilize my Subway rewards card as often as possible.

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My reluctance to spend money on food and other commodities isn’t the only reason I’m drawn to inexpensive takeout and cereal. In addition to this, one must consider their priorities.

Like Hugh Grant’s character in “About a Boy,” I break up my day into discrete chunks of time. When I’m given free reign over my schedule, I like to fill those gaps with tried-and-true hobbies like writing, reading, watching movies, and practicing yoga. Let’s just say that learning how to cook isn’t high on my priority list.

When I break out of my routine and try something new, whether it’s a different route to a known destination or a spur-of-the-moment get-together with an old buddy, I find that I appreciate the world around me more. However, there are times when I need to be reminded to do things in a different way.

Because of tonight’s reminder, I went to the cutting board, and I have to say that I loved it a lot more than I would have expected to before I started.

I was making pico de gallo at the time, and while I was chopping the onions and tomatoes into beautiful small cubes, humming and falling into a staccato beat, I recalled something my father had said the day before. After he was let off from his work, he found that doing the dishes gave him a sense of accomplishment, so he requested that I do them for him instead.

He was at a loss for words to describe the newfound affection he had developed for Palmolive, but it wasn’t necessary for him to elaborate. When I really put my mind to anything, even something as mundane as cleaning the bathroom, it can be really relaxing and even fulfilling. I understood precisely what he meant by that.

I felt nearly as peaceful as I do after practicing yoga after chopping vegetables for an hour since my boyfriend had prepared an elaborate Mexican supper for my family, whom we were visiting at the time. I’ll admit that the margarita I drank while I was cutting may have had something to do with my relaxed condition, but I’m very sure that the chopping was the primary factor.

Instead of fitting my housework in between other activities that I either want to do or have to do, I’ve made the decision to become more strategic in how I approach these responsibilities. The act of executing a mundane home chore with awareness may be compared to dropping a pebble into water, causing waves of Zen to spread throughout the day.

If you are also interested in developing a mindfulness practice at home, the following suggestions are ones that I would make to you:

1. Let Your Bed Set The Tone For The Rest Of Your Day

For me, making the bed is one of those things that just comes naturally. Leaving it unmade seems as odd as going out without wearing trousers when I leave the house. On the other hand, I am aware that it might be tempting to roll out of bed with the sheets and blankets still rumpled in order to get a head start on the day.

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Mornings start off on the right foot when you take the time to consciously make your bed. It indicates that you will move from one activity to the next at your own leisurely pace, without hurrying or scrambling in order to complete the tasks at hand. Because, when you’re actually thinking about it, how much of your day do you truly experience and appreciate when you’re going so quickly?

2. Take Your Time Doing The Dishes

My father is aware of the fact that cleaning the dishes can be a fulfilling and grounding activity. Allow yourself to take pleasure in the process of making something filthy clean again, and allow yourself to feel the warmth of the water on your hands. Don’t worry about completing or figuring out what you’ll do after you’re done. Just focus on the task at hand. Just pay attention to what you’re doing.

In his book “The Miracle of Mindfulness,” Thich Nhat Hanh provides a clear explanation of it.

In my opinion, the only time it is possible to think that cleaning the dishes is unpleasant is when you are not really doing them.

I find it relaxing to take my time with each dish, paying attention to the dish itself, the water, and the movements of my hands while I work. I am well aware that if I rush in order to get to dessert earlier, the time that I have to spend cleaning dishes will be a miserable experience that is not worth living. That would be a shame, considering that each and every minute and second that we are given on this earth is a miracle.

3. Consider Cleaning Your House As A Self-Acceptance Exercise

How often do we go through life fighting against ourselves to accomplish things that we really don’t want to do? We put things off, we grumble, and we outsource work when we might be doing something more productive with our time. However, we would be better off in the long run if we accepted the fact that we would have to engage in activities that we would rather not, and then carried those activities out without making any effort to avoid them.

The fact that it won’t clean itself puts the task of cleaning the toilet on the same level of unpleasantness as getting a root canal. I prepare myself to take this same acceptance with me when I leave my home by first accepting this and then acting upon it at the exact moment it is necessary to act, and no later. I need to cease labeling things as positive or negative in order to quiet the nagging inner monologue that hinders me from living in the here and now.

4. While You’re In The Shower, Let Your Senses Take Control

In your lifetime, you have most likely participated in at least a few instances of a contemplative shower. When you are standing under a stream of water that has been heated to your ideal temperature, it is simple to let go of any other ideas that may be running through your head.

Take advantage of this opportunity to hone in on your senses. Pick a bar of soap that you really like using so that the aroma will be irresistible. Feel the water run down your back, your calves, and your heels as you relax and take pleasure in the feeling of the water on your skin. When the water first touches my head, it is my favorite aspect of the experience. It brings back memories of having my hair washed at the salon, when I would receive a wonderful massage while the hairdresser kneaded my head while my hair was being cleaned under strong water pressure.

Beginning your day with a routine that includes some kind of meditation can help you start the day with a clear head.

5. Transform An Uninteresting Undertaking Into A Round Of The Noticing Game

The phrase “the noticing game” is not a technical term; I’m sure a monk has explained the same concept much more eloquently than I have, but if you would indulge me, entertain me.

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The following is an example of how the noticing game may be played: A month ago, while I was flying from California to Massachusetts, I was caught in the eye of a perfect storm of challenging airplane conditions. I had a weird feeling and was unable to fall or stay asleep. My television was broken, and I was afraid to switch on my light to read in case it woke up the baby who was sleeping next to me.

There was nothing that could be done to occupy one’s time while waiting. I had to fight the desire to go against the first rule I always follow while returning home and use my credit card to buy an exorbitant drink on the airplane. Instead, I made it a point to take in everything that was going on around me.

I looked around at the various individuals, took note of the unique things they were wearing, listened carefully to what was going on around me, and focused on the aromas that were there (luckily, not coming from the baby). Because of this, I was able to stop looking for ways to get out of the situation and instead focus on fully experiencing it.

It is possible to do the same thing when you are dusting, vacuuming, or ironing. Take note of aspects of your furniture that you may not have paid attention to in the past, such as its textures, colors, or forms. Take note of the repeating patterns on your clothing.

When you concentrate on being present in the moment rather than wishing you were somewhere else, it is much simpler to enjoy it for what it is rather than wishing you were someplace else.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a long way to go before I can perfect that ability. I’m making progress on it, one tomato, one shower, and one dish at a time. And the act of doing so brings me joy.

Your MASTERY OF LIFE begins the moment you break through your prisons of self-created limitations and enter the inner worlds where creation begins.

-Dr. Jonathan Parker-

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