Further Adventures at the Kitchen Sink

I often have used my kitchen as the setting for various philosophical revelations, since, after all, I do spent a lot of time there, and so it is natural that thoughts will occur to me. The proverbial kitchen sink itself has been not only the backdrop but even the spur to enlightenment. Another such episode has just occurred.

                As I was rinsing the items in the sink one by one and then placing them in the disk rack to dry, I encountered a familiar discombobulation due to the awkward arrangement of some large items. Chiefly two mugs are responsible, which, if placed in one location, result in everything stacking up nicely, but otherwise not.

                The key is to position the mugs before anything else. Sometimes this comes about by chance, but usually not. And why not? Because I am not paying attention.

                Now, who cares, right? So I have to rearrange the items in the dish rack sometimes: So what? Actually paying attention to not paying attention to the order of items in my dish rack is like worrying about which long spoon to stir the pot with (as I dealt with in another recent essay). Obviously a little obsessive compulsion going on here.

                Sure, I admit it. But my point now (as with the spoons, but now a different lesson) is that something of much greater value can be gleaned from the situation. In order to get the items to align themselves in the rack the way I prefer I need to rinse the items in a certain order, and prior to that, therefore, stack them in the sink for washing with that end in view. What this implies is that I really need to be paying attention through the whole process.

                And is this not the essence of Zen? Is this not a microcosm of the entire world or life of the Zen practitioner? Every-minute Zen. Be Here Now. Pay attention.

                And not only is washing the dishes a reminder of this ethics. It is a perfect opportunity to practice it. Yes, in this case for a trivial reason: to get the items positioned right in the rack without having to rearrange them. But I’ve been doing this at this sink for thirty years. Just imagine what a Zen adept I would have become had I been practicing my every-minute Zen every day at this sink for 30 years!

                And the value of being a Zen adept is abundantly clear to anyone who has read about it or lived it. Again, the idea is simplicity itself: Pay attention. Who could doubt the value of that to one’s whole life?


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