Is Work Practice Your Dharma Gate?

Zen considers work practice an integral part of our spiritual life. It is a deeply meditative spiritual practice where we recognize, moment by moment, our interconnection with all things.

In ordinary life, our busy mind disregards a tub of soapy water, judging it unworthy of our attentiveness, and then splits off. But if our mind slows down just a little, we see that the myriad things in our lives are our lives. It is only when we split ourselves off that our activity feels separate from real life. Through focused activity, we get a felt-sense of our interconnectedness with the world around us by feeling the weight of a damp mop; and noticing the sheen it leaves behind. By moving the zabutons with our hands rather than shoving them with our feet. By gently returning a chair to its rightful place — our rough edges begin to soften. By bringing our restless mind back to the activity, over and over, we begin to feel our own aliveness.

It's difficult to sit on a cushion, facing a blank wall, watching our thoughts. They come too fast. Our knees ache. We become bored, even irritated. It's quite pleasant to dip our hands into a sink of soapy water and, with no thought at all about washing the dishes, just watch what happens.

Like the secret of life itself, the secret to a successful Zen practice is a double helix: meditative work practice and meditative sitting practice, each supporting and sustaining the other. When the two are in balance our practice becomes our lifeline, connecting us to the sangha, to the dharma, and to Buddha. Through work practice, quite naturally, we begin to embody one of Zen's key teachings: the undivided nature of giver, receiver, and gift.The key to a single dharma gate opens them all.

With questions, or to learn how to get involved, contact the office info@mnzencenter.org

Our mission is to help people experience a deep and quiet joy – a joy that arises whenever we are fully engaged in the work or play of this moment.