Two memories really got me thinking about Zen and mopping floors this week. But before I go into that, I want to talk about one aspect of Zen. You’ve heard the expression “Chop wood, carry water.” Zen’s flavor is earthy and this saying captures that perfectly. This simple phase could just as well say, “Mop floors, wash dishes.” One thing this saying does is give full-throated encouragement to a Zen practitioner who aims to cultivate mindful attention in everything she does. This is how we practice. In addition, the saying is encouragement to unhesitatingly do what needs doing. Without doubt or fear. Mopping floor Zen is down-to-earth, affectionate, and intimate.
When the men I volunteer with at the Essex County Corrections Facility begin meditation practice, many find it hard to relax. And many talk about having racing or oppressive thoughts that make it “impossible” to meditate. Yet, in a matter of weeks, those students who consistently apply the meditation instructions report a greater sense of peace and wellbeing. These students make fairly rapid gains because they use meditation throughout the day with the right effort, and with the right attitude.