What is the spiritual way to perform mundane tasks? (June 10, 2010)

Contemporary spirituality tends to hold that much of the spiritual life lies in the quality of attention we bring to everyday acts. If we could only wash dishes with a certain kind of awareness, we might stumble into enlightenment. It is not the meaningfulness of the act itself that counts, but the quality of the attention we bring to it. With the right kind of attention, even chopping wood and carrying water becomes holy.

I like this perspective. Who doesn’t like the notion that our awareness alone can turn the mundane into the sacred? At the same time, I see a somewhat different emphasis in A Course in Miracles. Early in its dictation, Helen Schucman received a discourse that taught that we should ask Jesus to “take charge of all minutiae,” so that we can get through it more quickly and easily. (The specific bit of minutiae under discussion was Helen buying a winter coat.)  It said, “If you insist on doing the trivial your way, you waste too much time and will on it.” Why do we want to get through our mundane activities more quickly? The answer: “There is a way of speeding you up. And that is by leaving more and more time for Me. So you can devote it to miracles.” 

“Miracles” here means simple daily acts of kindness by which we help others uplift their perception of themselves. Here, then, is a somewhat different value system. Yes, the mindset we bring to our activities is crucial. But the meaningfulness of the activity is also important, for there is indeed an outer objective to achieved. There are people to heal. So let’s let Jesus speed us through the meaningless activities, so we can use our time for the really important things. So we can devote it to miracles.

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