Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.
After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”
Zen proverb

Chop wood, carry water, have a sip of tea and repeat! Oh those routine, mind numbing tasks such as folding laundry, doing dishes, sweeping floors, chopping vegetables and even chopping wood!. Eastern thought sees these tasks as most of what makeup our day and being mindful and knowing that these are the bread of life – how to be engaged and present and even meditative helps us to view that time differently.

The cycle of household indoor and outdoor chores are never ending. These menial tasks are using Chop Wood, Carry Water - Mundane Task Quoteup valuable time that we could be spending otherwise – Not Necessarily True. When we maintain a mindful presence with our simple tasks we begin to view them as a valuable contribution to ourselves as well as those around.

These tasks actually give us time to center our thoughts on the activity which effectively stops our mind from focusing on the stresses and problems troubling us. When we allow ourselves to appreciate our accomplishments (whether it is how great the carpet looks after a thorough vacuuming or now there is enough wood chopped to last the week) we feel good about ourselves and more at peace. No one likes to clean the bathroom but once it is done we do appreciate how clean we know it is and feel a sense of accomplishment. And we think your bathroom probably loves the care and attention too 🙂

“Your own attention is what spiritualizes things. Attention to the meal you cook, the clothes you wash. Attention is love. And that’s transformative.” Karen Maezen Miller

These repetitive mundane tasks also give us a chance to be thankful:

  • that we have the water to wash the dishes,
  • the wood to heat our home,
  • the clothes to keep warm
  • food to eat
  • house to live in

This contemplation while completing chores is a form of za-zen, a losing of the conscious mind Mundane Tasks - Laundry through repetitive action. The more we practice this withdrawal from our hectic schedules and focus on the task at hand the easier it will be to achieve and the better we will feel. Over time these chores will take on deeper purpose, and eventually we will find even the mundane tasks worthwhile. 

Why not practice with a Za-Zen Tea Moment? Heat the kettle, add tea leaves to your Libre Tea glass or tea pot, add the hot water and let it steep. Focus on the tea’s aroma and flavor, and how each pot tastes and smells slightly different though made from the same leaves. Now give attention to your mundane task and let it give your busy mind a rest from your ‘too fast and too many thoughts about the past or future’. Appreciate the ease of gathering the water and the warmth the tea gives us, the inner peace.

Here are 2 teas that we suggest for your Za-Zen Tea Moment:
Earl Grey from Namasthe in Banff, BC
Strawberry Smile Green Tea from Local Coffee & Tea in Sarasota, FL.

Congratulations to Georgiana, the winner of the Walking Reflections Tea Moment!

What’s your favourite mundane task of the week – how was your experience of a mindful activity – stay present and let us know about your experience – your challenges and rewards of a za-zen mindful approach –  where you focused only on the task at hand.


More reading on mundane, repetitive tasks with a new rewarding approach:

Comments (18)

  1. jules mcnubbin


    knitting relaxes me…its a bit mundane and repetitive at times but i find it very soothing..

  2. Reply

    Walking my dog. It gives me a chance to get out, often with my camera in hand and appreciate the shift in the seasons. I especially appreciate time with my dog, Indiana Jones who is a sweet and faithful companion.

  3. Reply

    My favorite mundane task of the week was cooking. I’ve never really been much of a cook but I have been having lots of fun experimenting with new flavours and food combinations.

  4. Mer


    My favorite mundane task is laundry. Especially now that it’s colder, it’s nice folding warm, fresh smelling clothing. Plus there’s just such a sense of accomplishment when I’m done.

  5. Sheri L.


    My favorite mundane task is pulling weeds in my garden. I like it because I get to relax and reflect – plus if I have a particularly hard day at work, it’s a great stress reliever!

  6. Suzie B


    I really enjoy washing the dishes, believe it or not, I take the time to think of my day and meditate while cleaning!

  7. Renata


    My favorite mundane task is preparing fresh foods for cooking – as I love washing, cleaning and slicing fresh fruits and veggies! Puts me in a zen frame of mind!

  8. Raymond


    I actually enjoy ironing and it puts me in a very peaceful spirit! I even iron all my wife’s and daughters clothes!

  9. stacey h


    my favorite mundane task this week has been cleaning out the inside of my car. i don’t do it very often, but the joy of having an extra clean car, makes my driving to work more enjoyable.

  10. Jen H.


    My favorite mundane task is washing dishes. It’s an opportunity to continue appreciating the meal I’ve just enjoyed. The warmth from the water and sense of completion and order attained afterward make this task relaxing and enjoyable. It’s also a well-appreciated show of gratitude for a good meal. At family gatherings, I always take on the dishes.

  11. Terri Cole


    I recently adopted a plant-based diet. I’m preparing much more fresh food, making a lot of soups to cahse the chill away. The chopping, sauteeing & stirring is a very peaceful, zen activity for me. I feel very centered when I’m in my kitchen.

  12. Susan OBryant


    Mine is washing my face each evening. It signals the end of the day, removing the makeup and “gunk” and knowing I’m doing something good for my skin is a nice feeling. And the anticipation of sleep is great, too!

  13. gracie


    my mundane but relaxing task is laundry – hang on the line, dry all day, take down from line, fold later. this task i usually do on a weekend & good time for some alone time & always better with a cup of tea.

  14. Tammy Sigond


    My mundane task doing laundry on Sunday afternoons while my daughter is at Hip-hop class and husband is at work. My time to think and enjoy a cup or 2 of tea and think mindlessly!

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