When Ironing Becomes Zen

Of all the house chores that I procrastinate the most, ironing tops the list. I have never liked it and was always happy to pass it on to someone else, like the dobhi in India. Oh how I miss the concept of dobhis here. It’s the one thing that spoils you rotten when you live in India – the luxury of handing over the clothes to the dobhi for the most pristine and impeccable ironing. Try as I might, my ironing will never come close to that of a dobhi’s, all the more reason to miss them. 

Ironing is probably the one moment when all love for my family falls away and I turn into a horrible witch mumbling nasty incantations about turning everyone into ugly toads. I have tried ironing to soothing New Age music, to upbeat Latino music, Afro-Cuban jazz, you name it, I’ve tried it but music doesn’t reduce my rage a single iota. I’ve also tried ironing while watching my favourite programs on TV in the hope that the plot will take away some of the frustration, but watching a bindle-worthy crime series simply made me press down harder on the shirts and iron more vigorously with a fury that would put a typhoon to shame. 

Then I remembered the teachings during my Jesuit retreats – find God in everything that you do. Usually I pray for deliverance from the housework, but then I thought to myself that it’s time to stop being angry at the iron and ironing board, and start praying with it. So as I ironed a pile of shirts this morning, I did so in a prayerful and meditative manner and was completely immersed in the task. My shoulder and arm tell me that tennis has paid off, and I honestly feel as though I just played a tough match but was satisfied with the outcome.

Zen teaches that every activity we do is an inseparable poetic moment from the path to enlightenment. To create a Zen moment out of the activity and find peace within and with it, therefore, meditation must be part of the magic formula.

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