Cleaning a pot can be very meaningful, particularly if you block out all thoughts and concentrate on nothing but you and the instrument that has helped provide you with so much nourishment.
I rub and rub, reaching inside to cleanse all that stuck to the vessel, hoping my meager efforts could help purify and return the pot to its near-pristine condition.
In the process, I become one with the pot. It is just me, the water from a spigot and the scrub sponge I wipe back and forth, up and down and along the edges.
The pot is stubborn. But so am I. I won’t quit until I remove those particles of vegetables that have burned into the strong, durable metal. It resists my first and second rub‑through. But then I bear down and situate the pot in an angle in which I can use my stronger arm to get to that clinging morsel that seems to have imprinted itself on the pot.
Time doesn’t seem to matter. I’m in no hurry. I am in the kitchen long after eating a meal and spoon-feeding myself the soup that was cooked to feed 18 people during a retreat last weekend. Is it a 10‑gallon pot or perhaps a 20‑gallon one? I don’t know, but it’s bigger than any I have at home.
The monk who prepared this portion of our meal called it “military soup.” He said he used to cook for 200 others in a monastery. You can imagine the size of that pot!
But wait a minute. Sometimes the holy man worked in a kitchen helping to prepare soup for 1,000 people. The pots were so huge that a full‑sized man would have to climb inside the pot to clean it.
When he told me this, I imagined a bunch of dark‑brown-robed monks with shaved heads attaching brushes to their feet while scrubbing with both hands, trying to get to the pieces that nearly melded into the pot over hours or even days while serving people attending a retreat of some length.
I thought of happy young men smiling at each other as they skated from one side of the pot and up the other, having fun while benefitting others. Time meant nothing to them. They had all that they needed in the present moment, one moment after another.
When I finished scrubbing, I gently wiped my hand over the tough‑to‑clean areas, ensuring I got it all. Perfect! Then I not only looked outside the pot, but wiped it as softly as I would a child, feeling for any imperfections.
Rinsing then completes the task, and I, too, feel “completed,” having performed a task no one asked me to do, but one I wanted to do out of the goodness of my heart. It saved some work for our host, and it gave me a chance to practice mindfulness and generosity.
Who ever thought cleaning a pot would ever be so enriching?
You delight me with this post, Michael J. You wrote the message so well – one that’s very, very dear to me. I can still see my spiritual teacher and hear her voice the first time we explored the concept of mindfulness.
She cautioned us about the line that, if crossed, would put us into fighting mode. Like you, she was talking about pots. Before our study time, I had experienced a terrible time getting polish off my toe nails. It was the enemy and the more I slathered on remover, the more the diluted polish spread over my toes. Exasperated, I was in a hurry, slipped on my sandals and sped off.
When our teacher invited comment, I shared the experience. All of us howled with mutual knowingness as my rosy toes wriggled in mirth!
I wonder if I will ever clean a pot – from now on – without seeing a number of tiny monks inside, skating on brushes, chanting and shouting hallelujah over the shiny spots! 😀
Now you got me smiling from ear to ear.
I really get what you mean. The effort to scrub the pot clean – and at the same time, struggling to keep yourself going cleaning the pot… the latter is what saps our energy – all we need to do is just keep aware, keep in the moment – then the cleaning becomes a different experience… thank you, a delighteful post.
Being mindful of the moment is keeping aware of each moment without thoughts of the past or the future intruding on the experience.
Thanks for your insight!