It is 5:45 a.m. and I’m outside, barefoot at 6°C in a T-shirt, hanging up the first load of the morning’s laundry. The sunrise hasn’t quite come yet, so I look up to take in the quarter Moon, Jupiter, Venus and the constellation of Orion fading in the twilight. The air is still and a thin sheen of morning dew is evident on the ground. As the dampness of the laundry commingles with the chill air, my fingers begin a dull ache. It is cold. And I am smiling.
It’s difficult to explain the quiet joy I find in these moments. My wife thinks that I’m somehow impervious to the cold. She shakes her head at my fasts, wondering how it is that I seemingly never experience hunger. She wonders about my long walks and how I seldom stop to rest. How is it that I could be standing outside before the dawn, barefoot in the cold and grinning while I hang up the laundry? Am I daft?
The answer is actually quite simple: These moments are wonderful opportunities to be fully present. Moments such as these remind me to fully engage with my surroundings and to fully experience them. Instead of bundling up to push away the cold, I embrace the feeling of the chill caressing my skin. I am thankful for the acknowledgment that I am alive in this body and able to experience such sensations.
Even the chore of laundry is a blessing. I do the laundry for our family of five. I’m constantly amazed and amused at how five different souls can make so much busy work. Instead of railing against the task, however, I embrace it as an opportunity to practice mindfulness and thoroughness. Tasks such as cleaning the litter box, laundry and putting away the shopping are all essential to the successful running of the household. In fully embracing these tasks and taking them on with joy, they serve as marvellous teachers.
It’s easy to get caught up in thoughts of wishing you were elsewhere, doing something else. Truthfully, I spent the better part of my life suffering greatly at my own clinging to the idea that the grass was greener on the other side of the fence. It seemingly did not matter what fence; I was fairly certain that things were better wherever I wasn’t.
The lessons learned in my pursuit of greener pastures were harsh, causing pain not only to myself but to others. A funny thing happened during a period of dire financial times, though; I learned to be joyful where I was with what I had. That happened over a bowl of fried eggs and onions — the only food on my menu for nearly a week. A sprinkling of garam masala, sea salt and pepper over this dish became a moment of quiet joy as I gave thanks for this meal that would sustain me for the next 24 hours.
When I discovered this joy over the smallest bowl of eggs and onions, my life began changing. The changes ranged from a friend pretending to have cooked too much food and needing my help in eating it, to finding gainful employment and even fixing my relationships. In each case, I followed my newfound realization that my grass would only be green if I tended to the grass beneath my own feet.
Genuine joy is something that cannot be found through external means. It can only be cultivated from within. Mindful and thorough practices in our everyday living serve as the gardens of our life from which we enrich ourselves and grow. When you tend to the mundane tasks of your daily life with committed mindfulness and purposeful joy, you stop trying to be elsewhere and you tend to the grass beneath your feet.
It may seem to be a tired cliche, but I highly recommend that you strive to see the joy in the ordinary things sprinkled throughout your life. Ordinary things are the thread from which the fabric of our existence is woven. When we strive for mindfulness and thoroughness in our everyday tasks, we elevate our whole life experience to become something greater.
Be Here Now.