As I was washing the dishes this morning, I remembered how I used to "hate" washing the dishes. To me, it was always equated with a task that I "have to do", not one that I "choose" to do.
As I reflected upon this, a word popped up into my head: equanimity. The message I heard is that I had now learned to wash the dishes with equanimity. Now maybe this happens to you -- a word pops up in your head and you vaguely know what it means, but you don't know its exact meaning. So, drying my hands (I knew that if I didn't go check the dictionary then and there, I'd forget), I went over to my trusty paperback dictionary to look up equanimity. To my surprise, I couldn't find it. Well, I thought, I must not know how to spell it, so I looked up several possibilities. Still no equanimity!
Thank Goodness for Spell-Check
Turning to my trusty computer, I typed in equinimity. OK, so it let me know I had misspelled it and it should be spelled equanimity. (Thank goodness for spell-check!) So picking up the dictionary again, I looked up what I now knew to be the correct spelling. Still no equanimity in the American Heritage Dictionary. (Which led me to wonder about the heritage of Americans -- I guess equanimity isn't part of it!)
So, back to the computer, and its trusty Thesaurus. These words are the synonyms for equanimity: poise, composure, dignity, patience, aplomb, serenity. Then looking up synonyms of those, I came up with self-respect, inner strength, calmness, peacefulness, self-confidence, tranquility, sereneness, equilibrium, fortitude, balance, self-reliance, and assurance.
How interesting! The message I had heard is that I now went through the experience of washing the dishes, a task that I once hated passionately, with patience, serenity, inner strength, calmness, peacefulness, tranquility, etc. You get the picture!
A task that I had once resisted and rebelled against (ask my sister) now was a task that was peaceful and calming. However, the action of washing the dishes was the same... the dishes still started out dirty and ended up clean.
Changing Our Attitude
This led me to reflect on other such situations in our lives. Certain things that we say we "hate" could become much more pleasant if we changed our attitude. So what had changed in my attitude about the dishes? Well, perhaps that as a child, I knew I had an alternative. If I resisted long enough, someone else would wash the dishes. Now as an adult, I realize that the resistance isn't worth the struggle, because eventually I'll have to wash the dishes, and there will be more of them and they'll be harder to wash.
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These days, I would rather accept that the dishes need to be washed, and go ahead and do it, without all the complaining. So, I'll usually put on some music and wash to the sounds of melodies that I enjoy -- I might even sing along or dance a few dance steps in the process. If you have to do something anyway, might as well make it pleasant.
I'm sure you can think of things in your life that fit this pattern. For some it is exercising, for others a particular task at work, for you ____________ (fill in your particular task)... Whatever it is that you "hate" to do, look at it closely, and ask yourself: Is this something I have to do? If the answer is no, then why are you doing it? If the answer is yes, then the best thing to do is to change your attitude about it.
Grin and Enjoy It!
For example, perhaps you work in an office, and are in charge of making the coffee, and as a "liberated female" you resent having to do this (or if you're a male, perhaps you think it is a "woman's job"). Well, if this is part of your job, and you like your job and don't want to leave it, then the old expression "grin and bear it" may be the solution. However, you may want to do more than "grin and bear it" since that implies suffering or martyrdom.
What you need to do is change your perception of the "coffee making". Rather than simply see the aspect of it being a "demeaning task", rather look at the happiness it brings your co-workers. As you well know, when someone "needs" their coffee, they really really need it... and that makes you a very important person in their life. You are bringing them something that is important for their emotional and mental well-being.
Job Well Done!
So, the hated task of making coffee can be turned into providing a service that brings joy to the people who drink it. The same applies to other tedious jobs.
My first job was as a filing clerk. Mind you after three months I was bored and found another job, but while I was there, my goal was to do the job the best I could. This gave me the pleasure of a job well done. So the filing (generally not a very exciting task) became a task I could enjoy doing because I did it well, and could then congratulate myself on a job well-done.
There are many instances in our life when certain tasks cannot be avoided... sometimes it's family duties such as washing dishes, cleaning, laundry, paying bills, etc. Other times it's things at work.
If we approach each task with an attitude of doing it the best we can and doing it as a meditation, then it becomes another step on our spiritual path. If we do each thing with love instead of anger and resentment, then we get a lot out of it... peace, joy, and a feeling of fulfillment. But if we do the same task while grinding our teeth and muttering our discontent, we end up with a sour feeling of resentment, anger, and feeling bad in general.
Who's In Charge of Your Attitude?
No one can change our attitude but ourselves. That the one thing we are completely responsible for. Yes, sometimes it's harder to stay peaceful when everyone around you is responding with anger and maliciousness, yet, that is the true strength of an inner focus on peace.
Whatever is going on around us, we keep the focus on peace, love, respect, acceptance, and equanimity. We keep taking deep breaths, and reminding ourselves that we have a choice on how we react. We can let others (whether people or things) run our life because we are reacting to them, or we can take control of our own life by choosing to handle events in our life with peace, acceptance, and always seeing the "higher path".
It is a choice that must be made over and over again, each moment of the day, each experience we go though. Believe me, it's not something you do perfectly every day. Someone once said that enlightenment is an ongoing process. It is not that you become enlightened and then that's it -- you're done. It is rather that one moment you are enlightened and then the next you're not, and then the next you are, and then the next you're not, etc. etc.
When you experience moments of clarity, of love, of wisdom, then you are enlightened. When you experience moments of anger, hatred, despair, resentment, then you're not enlightened. That's pretty simple. But, there is no need to despair or criticize yourself for failure. Each breath, each moment brings a new opportunity, a new choice.
Choosing Enlightenment Now
Choose love, choose peace, choose happiness. Now and then again in the next moment. And when you forget, it will become easier for you to remember next time.
Each time you do remember to choose peace and follow through with the related action, this choice will bring you more joy, more peace, and more lasting happiness. It has a cumulative effect. The more you choose peace, the easier it becomes to remember to do so, and the more peace you experience.
It is an ongoing process, but well worth the effort.
Take Your Time: The Wisdom of Slowing Down
by Eknath Easwaran.
About The Author
Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.
Creative Commons 3.0: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Attribute the author: Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf.com. Link back to the article: This article originally appeared on InnerSelf.com