I have read a number of spiritual books, and there is a common theme in all of them- meditation in action. Now while they don’t all use that phrase, I will use it for the sake of convenience. What I am getting at is that I am a hypocrite if I meditate for half an hour in the morning, and then proceed to treat the world in any way I please; whether it is in a good way or negative way. There can be no discrepancy in your actions if you are on a spiritual path. If you can muster the courage to meditate, you can muster the courage to live courageously throughout the day too.
Alan Watts spoke in one of his lectures about Zen ashrams and how the duties are assigned to people living there. He surprising says that beginners are given the easiest jobs in maintaining the hermitage. I think most Westerners would be shocked by this, as in our society it is generally accepted that the lowest ranking people in any business or situation must do the ‘dirty work’. However, in the Zen ashrams that Watts speaks of, the higher your rank, the more work you do, or the less (seemingly) pleasant work you do. Thus, the guru who has attained the highest degree of enlightenment will clean the toilets. Quite bizarre, but Alan Watts explains that this is no problem for him. Therefore the dignity or greatness of an action is not the action itself, but the way in which you do the action. To be completely one with what you are doing is something we must all relearn.
So when you wash the dishes, don’t think about why someone else is not doing it. You are doing it. Therein lies what we constantly seek and seek, but never seem to find. We are doing all of this, yet always find some reason to complain about our lives. Do everything in life as if it were the only reason to live. If you complain, get angry, or become bored while doing something, just stick with it. There is honor in washing the dishes, but if you are on the spiritual path, you must act accordingly too. It is tough, and as a spiritual seeker I know the huge ask many gurus make when saying, “Live in the present”. Yet they have attained what we so desperately want, so listen to them or ignore them. You make the choice.