Kitchen Zen

Who was he? I don’t remember his name, but I know he had come to this church basement to teach a course in zen and he said something I have never forgotten. He was trying to explain a way of being  in everything  – not of sitting down at a certain time or saying certain words but of being present  in whatever you were doing.  And I could see he wasn’t convinced his audience understood. I too had the feeling no one had the faintest idea what he was talking about. Then he paused for a moment, clearly seeking a way to get his message across and  turning (alas) to a group of women he said when you are doing the dishes, imagine you are bathing baby Jesus. Well, he tetanized those christian ladies, I can assure you, but being pagan me, I laughed outloud… not in disrespect, no, I thought it an awesome allusion…

What made me laugh, I think was partly just the idea that here was this slight oriental bouddhist – accent confirming his belonging to a completely different culture – chosing baby Jesus as the highest standard bearer he could possibly think of to explain what is worthy of attention, to communicate in a semi-religious setting what was meant by the practice of zen.

So let me pass it on to you for good measure: when you do the dishes imagine that you are bathing baby Jesus. Good for your soul – if you see yourself as having one – good for your mind – assuming you have one of those too – good for your blood pressure… and maybe even good for the dishes.

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