babies and bathwater in Portland

October 6th, 2010

Washing dishes is like bathing a baby Buddha – Thich Nhat Hanh

People often quote this to me as their understanding of mindfulness. I only hope it is not their understanding of dishwashing or baby bathing.

First off, let me be clear. In an absolute sense, dishes are indeed the baby Buddha. The Buddha is indeed the dishes. As is the water, the dishwashing liquid, the scrubber and the baked-on lasagna. Everything is nothing but Mind, which is nothing but Buddha. So this instruction is absolutely true. It’s in the application that the baked-on lasagna gets sticky.

In a relative sense, our understanding of mindfulness poses difficulty. (Any understanding poses difficulty and the relative sense is where all our difficulty lies.) We might infer that we are to bring a certain something extra to the sink, like an attitude of holiness or reverence. Maybe we should slow down and contemplate the sacredness of the task, its deeper meaning and value. We might even extract a self-satisfied fulfillment from how we see ourselves. I’ve finally got it! I’m really washing dishes like bathing a baby Buddha!

Even though the dish is the baby Buddha, it is still a dish. And a baby? A baby is not a dish. To wash the dishes is to wash them as they are: dishes. To bathe a baby is to bathe the baby as it is: squirming, splashing, crying, laughing, slippery. To be mindful is to bring nothing more to your life than what is there already. Seeing things as they are, you already know exactly what to do and how to do it. Wash the dish. Bathe the baby. As they are.

We just forget, and look for something more to add to it than our own straightforward attention. Attention is more than enough. It is pure love for everything in life as it is.

Attention! Someone dropped the baby in Portland! Whether you’re a mother or father, spiritual or not, into Zen or far out of it, come to this event and help me stack the dishes. Please share with anyone who has an interest in peaceful parenting, and especially those who have no interest at all.

Saturday, Oct. 16, 9-3:30 p.m.
Portals of Love: The Spiritual Practice of Parenting
Hosted by Zen Community of Oregon at St. David of Wales Church
Portland, Oregon

If you ever prayed for an easier way to parent, this one day workshop is for you. We’ll examine how to find a spiritual practice amid the demands of home life. If you’re not a parent, you’ll still benefit fully because there is no prerequisite for finding personal peace. The day includes morning coffee and vegetarian lunch, beginning meditation and other mindfulness practices, ample time for personal questions and book signing.

More information and registration here.

7 Comments »

  1. Today’s entry is perfect, perfectly in tune with this wisdom I recently rediscovered in Momma Zen: Be the mom. With two teenage daughters and two younger sons, I find this essential. I use it as a personal mantra. Just be the mom. Not the stressed-out mom, not the overwhelmed mom, not the disorganized mom, not the too-old mom, the too-tired mom… Thank you so much, I’m gradually stumbling towards peace with your help. We met at Mother’s Plunge last month.

    Comment by Sandy Sullivan — October 6, 2010 @ 6:09 pm

  2. I am bummed I will be in Florida when you visit my state. I was traveling during the Seattle visit and Ranier visit. Now you are going to be in the neighborhood. Well, I do hope to see you in the future.

    Comment by Amanda — October 6, 2010 @ 9:26 pm

  3. I like Thich Nhat Hanh–but I like him even more filtered through you! (he’s funnier that way.) “I need some space,” my seventeen-year-old insisted three days ago. Then, yesterday, “I need some help here!” He’s all over the place. I’m trying to stay in one place, to be the mom, to pay attention. Thanks for the reminder that this is really all we have to do.

    Comment by Katrina Kenison — October 7, 2010 @ 12:21 pm

  4. [...] your mind wander (as it naturally wants to). For example, in mindful dishwashing (which is “like bathing a baby Buddha“), Patrick Groneman [...]

    Pingback by Meditate Without Sitting Still: Turn Everyday Actions into a Practice | Good Stuff — July 25, 2013 @ 8:52 am

  5. [...] your mind wander (as it naturally wants to). For example, in mindful dishwashing (which is “like bathing a baby Buddha“), Patrick Groneman [...]

    Pingback by Meditate Without Sitting Still: Turn Everyday Actions Into A Practice | Lifehacker Australia — July 25, 2013 @ 10:00 pm

  6. [...] your mind ramble (as it naturally wants to). For example, in mindful dishwashing (which is “like showering a baby Buddha“), Patrick Groneman [...]

    Pingback by Meditate Without Sitting Still: Turn Everyday Actions into a Practice « Music RSS — July 26, 2013 @ 5:05 am

  7. [...] your mind wander (as it naturally wants to). For example, in mindful dishwashing (which is “like bathing a baby Buddha“), Patrick Groneman [...]

    Pingback by Meditate Without Sitting Still: Turn Everyday Actions into a Practice | My Best Yoga — July 26, 2013 @ 9:57 am

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