How can we find presence in our daily routine?

Most of the time, we’re living in our minds, in our memories, plans, reflections, and judgments.

The mind is continually presenting us with thoughts, and we’re buying them, and then identifying with them, and then we end up losing the moment – we’re just off with the thought, and we’re not here at all.

I keep training myself so that, for example, in my little house, dishes have to be done, and when I start to do the dishes, I can feel the difference between when I start to do the dishes and when I finish doing the dishes. When I start to do the dishes, I’m busy, “I gotta do the dishes, so I can get back to my desk” or, “I’ve gotta make that phone call. I’d better do the dishes first” and then as I start to do the dishes, an interesting experience happens. When I pick up the brush and put the soap on it, you know, squirt the Dove or whatever it is, and a little glass, fill it with water, and stick it in, and start to rub the plate, there it is again; and I start out washing the dishes to get done, and by the time I’m done, I’m high from washing the dishes.

I was at Benedictine monastery some years back; we couldn’t talk, it was silent, and the only time you ever talked was when you were in line to wash your tin plate; you were standing, and you could sort of whisper, I mean, it was sort of a funny little loophole in the system – there was a man in front of me, and he had a brush with the soap on it, and he was washing his tin plate, and I was looking over his shoulder, and I said to him, because he only had a moment to talk, and I said, “How long have you been here?” and he said, “seventeen years” – and there was a quality in the term “seventeen years,” and the tone of voice he said it in, and that brush going around on that plate that was so profound a moment for me, it was a certain kind of surrender, a certain kind of peacefulness, a certain kind of ‘just washing the plate’. 

It’s interesting because at Barre I really got bugged at this retreat, because someone came to wash the pots, and he didn’t end up washing pots, because my job at the Barre retreat center has always been washing pots – and they come in, and they see me washing pots, and they think, “Oh, poor Ram Dass, he’s got this dirty, heavy job,” but I’m just washing these pots, and others have to sit and meditate, and I’m just washing these pots.

You can take your moments and train yourself to keep coming back into them by just doing what you’re doing.

Very often when I’m driving, I’m busy going somewhere, until I think, “Where am I?” Just the question, “Where am I?” “I’m driving. My hands are on the steering wheel. My foot’s on the accelerator.” And then going deeper, the “my” disappears, and there’s just hands on the steering wheel and foot on the accelerator, and passing images, and you just keep using everything to come back into the moment.


– Ram Dass

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