Remember washing your first car? Giving your two month old a bath? Cleaning a scraped knee on your grand child?
What these experiences all share is the love of spontaneously doing it. The enjoyment of doing something with an undivided focus of attention. And with the addition of timelessness. The goal was to get it done. The intention was to do your best. And you were free to take whatever time you needed.
The feeling or zone you may fall into doing the above is very interesting. There is a sense of peace and quiet while your are involved in the doing. Like having your cake and eating it. To really understand this and feel it you need your own experience of it. Then with practice you can find your way to shift into this mind-state at will. Once there you will find that in addition to the tasks getting done they will take less energy and leave you fully refreshed and ready for the next one.
One of the practices that was available at the retreat centers I have visited is the practice of Selfless or Karma Yoga. This practice is simply to complete some task either assigned or volunteer for with the mind/body intention of service for the community or common good as well as for yourself. I have done this many times and each time I have become more deeply connected to a mind/body tonality starting with skepticism and then moving on to acceptance to willingness to genuine enjoyment. (as reviewed above)
This last time was the cake.
At lunch a spokesperson asked for a volunteer to help in the kitchen after lunch. I was ready. I was welcomed and offered an official apron. I immediately felt as one of the kitchen staff. (By the way the food is so delicious and healthy that just to be associated with the kitchen felt like an honor)
I was asked to dry a number of pots, pans, and cooking trays and place them in the appropriate racks. (I did not break anything) Next I advanced to the retrieval of the remaining food on the salad bar. I was given a cart and asked to place covers over the trays, place them on the cart and return everything to the kitchen. With a trip or two in and out of the kitchen I was able to locate the correct sized covers. I started with the large trays that went fully from one side of the salad bar to the other. Each of the trays was separated by a thin aluminum bar. Everything was going fine until I got to the section of smaller trays. Not realizing that these smaller trays were supporting each other with a series of thin aluminum bars my mistake became immediately apparent. Two of the smaller trays one half filled with chopped onions and the other three quarters filled with a cold cooked grain fell two feet to the bottom of the salad bar with a loud thud and a small explosion of onions and brown grain. “This can’t be good,” quietly escaped from my mouth.
Not a problem my chance for Karma Yoga had now increased al least triple-fold. I returned to the kitchen for some rags and finding the doors on the side of the salad bar I gained immediate and full access to the cool inside. I retrieved the two trays which fortunately had landed right side up. About one third of each tray of onions and grain had bounced out and was scattered on the bottom of the bar. As I was clearing the spilled food I slipped into a deep state of “Karma Yoga” my concentration sharpened and I lost all thoughts of that morning or my plans for the rest of the day. I was intent on cleaning.
Once I finished with the inside, with refreshed energy, I returned to the kitchen in search of same clean towels and solution to wipe down the entire frame of the salad bar. I continued for about 20 minutes and cleaned every surface, uprights, side glass, aluminum strips, top glass inside and top side, face level shields and even the hinges on the side doors. I was in cleaning heaven.
I realized one of the keys for me was that I had plenty of time and was in no rush to finish to get on to something else.
I have continued this practice at home and have committed at least a 30 minute period each day to some activity that I attend to with the mind/body tonality of Karma Yoga. Not only am I thrilled and energized by this but my wife is slowly running out of projects for me to work on. If you need me to help with something let me know.
The salad bar became a work of art in my eye as I sat there later for dinner enjoying the view.