Zen & the Art of Table Maintenance
- TheDailyEnlightenment.comWeekly 02/12/04
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Realisation: Zen & the Art of Table Maintenance"Zen Table: A table with bare minimum features and maximum (needed) function." It's surprisingly hard to find a Zen table these days. Maybe the designers are thinking too much? Maybe consumer taste is getting fancy? We bought a Zen dining table. It's just one big flat darkwood table, which we love for its simplicity. But alas! It didn't stay zennish too long. As the days went by, we placed more and more stuff on it out of sheer convenience. Like reclaiming the sea with islands of books, and miscellaneous knick-knacks, the tabletop was soon buried out of sight, becoming a sea of random colour.It had become the opposite of a Zen table - a model of utter clutter. Seeing it gave us a headache. First, it was a constant eyesore. Second, it was so messy that the thought of sorting the stuff was demoralising... as we ironically continue heaping onto this "central dump" that has come to represent our state of mind. It was a picture of excess, laziness, chaos, impatience, distraction... The tabletop was a mirror in which we saw ourselves.
Suddenly I understood why novice monks in proverbial Zen stories were often tasked with the sweeping fallen leaves everyday, why Zen Master Shenxiu uttered that "the mind is like mirror bright, constantly polish it to let no dust alight." The items on the table were the stray leaves and dust of our scattered minds. As long as we are unenlightened, we need to maintain our minds to keep it clean, calm and focused. Without doing so, enlightenment is impossible. "Zen and the Art of... House Maintenance" - well, practising Zen and house-maintaining are not two things. Think "observing precepts" of house order, "cultivating concentration" while cleaning and "realising insight" into the nature of your mind as you do it with mindfulness. There you have it, the complete Threefold Training!Decluttering is therapeutic. Helps you to filter the background noise in your life and focus on the essentials. If not, you might essentially be lost? In this increasingly material age, let us realise that living with the bare minimal is not pathetic because the minimal IS all you need; all the extras are wants, not must-haves. Why not keep things simple since life is already complicated enough. But what is the use of our big bare table, you might wonder? Well, to create space for the mind, to breathe possibilities into life, and er... for clutter-free dining of course. But more importantly, to remind us to "polish" our minds, for it's a mirror for self-reflection. In minimising physical clutter, you help maximise peace of mind. It's a joy really, to come home to a minimally decorated house after a day of mental and physical clutter at work. Two interesting questions here: If the table is taken away, will there be no clutter, or will it clutter elsewhere? Is the table not clutter itself? Well, "Tip #1 for designing a Zen house: Take out everything unnecessary and put back only the necessary." But do the same with your mind first - or it wouldn't work! -shian | pic:pourannick.com
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