Take a Break From Stress: Dishes & Poetry Mindfulness

Meeting #13: May 12, 2020

Meeting Theme:

One may ask “do I strive to be ‘whole’ in the occasional moment, or am I invited to be ‘whole’ moment to moment to moment?  My meditation has moments of serenity, wholeness (holiness?), perhaps even enlightenment.  Is that all there is?  Might I experience peace continuously?  Even while washing the dishes?  Tying my shoes? Walking up the stairs?…

Today’s Quote:

After sharing dinner with his friend, the writer Jim Forest, the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn rose to wash the dishes before the two of them would share an after-dinner cup of tea.  Jim, the polite guest, insisted on doing the dishes himself as an act of gratitude for the lovely dinner Nhat Hahn had just served.  Nhat Hahn replied: 

“There are two ways to wash the dishes. The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes.  While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes, which means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes.  If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not ‘washing the dishes to wash the dishes.’ What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either…The fact that I am standing there and washing these bowls is a wondrous reality. I’m being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.”

Jim replied, “I choose the second way — to wash the dishes to wash the dishes.”

Opening paragraph is paraphrased from “The Miracle of Mindfulness” by Thich Nhat Hahn.  Following paragraphs are quoted from the same work.

Gently Guided Meditation: Breath/Body/Mind awareness

Meeting Recording:



Meeting #14: May 14, 2020

Meeting Theme:

What kind of life are we called to have during the pandemic?  Zen Master Dogen tells us that “Life and death are of supreme importance. Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost. Each of us should strive to awaken. Awaken! Take heed, do not squander your life.”  But how do we awaken in this time when daily events are so sobering, so exhausting to consider?  When we doubt that we’re up to “having life in abundance,” a promise made to us in the Christian scriptures, perhaps we should remind ourselves that living at a time when everything seems to be shifting beneath our feet calls for us to plant our feet on firmer ground, the ground of beauty and living that transcends the moment.  Poetry can help us to recall the beauty and the firmness of living.  Poetry can awaken us to the full expanse of our lives.

Today’s Quotes:

In Order by Danielle Chapman

I’ve filled my lungs with fog.

I have sobbed in certain familiar attics 

where each fond object had been 

hung or shoved away by hands 

whose roughness I had loved, 

and the carpet smelled of beloved dogs.


Now that that grief’s gone and others come 

I come back again to understand 

the first one, plum blossoms brushing 

the attic window as I look out upon 

a yard that has been left untended 

by any hand but that of God.

Meditation on a Grapefruit by Craig Arnold

To wake when all is possible

before the agitations of the day

have gripped you

To come to the kitchen

and peel a little basketball

for breakfast

To tear the husk

like cotton padding        a cloud of oil

misting out of its pinprick pores

clean and sharp as pepper

To ease

each pale pink section out of its case

so carefully       without breaking

a single pearly cell

To slide each piece

into a cold blue china bowl

the juice pooling       until the whole

fruit is divided from its skin

and only then to eat

so sweet

a discipline

precisely pointless       a devout

involvement of the hands and senses

a pause     a little emptiness

each year harder to live within

each year harder to live without


Gently Guided Meditation: Breath/Body/Mind awareness

Meeting Recording: