A Contemplation On Treating All Things As Sacred
How do we treat all things as if they have lasting, eternal significance? How do we “do all things for the glory of God” (as taught in the Christian tradition)?
All spiritual traditions teach about the importance of mindfulness in even the smallest things:
- In the Christian tradition, Brother Lawrence taught how to cook an egg for the glory of God
- In the Zen Buddhism tradition, Shunryu Suzuki taught that even assuming the posture of meditation, is to access our universal nature.
Even focusing on the breath can be bring about transcendent joy. That’s why the breath is such a popular meditation object in all traditions.
“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”Thich Nhat Hanh
Anything done with clarity, is to do it with enlightenment, which makes it sacred and brings us joy.
Side note: I talk about this elsewhere in my writings, but I view God as a concept that humans invented to explain the spiritual transcendence they experience.
People in the theistic traditions (Judaism, Islam, Christianity) all still experience a sense of infinite peace, love and joy. And combined with other “evidences”, presumed that there must be a creator God.
All theistic traditions have injected this idea of God with their own ideas of who that God must be (wrathful, etc). When in fact, it was our wrath that we projected onto God (anthropomorphism).
I do believe it is possible that the creative energy animating the universe has intelligence to it. But I do not believe in a cosmic, distant, unattainable God outside of the universe (unless we’re in the Matrix!).
For this reason, I believe that “doing all things as unto God”, is simply to do all things with mindfulness, which elevates our consciousness in whatever we do.
Sowing and Reaping the Karma of Small Things
It’s hard to imagine that even something as small as cooking an egg or doing the laundry, has karma (or has an impact). This is the same concept as reaping what we sow.
But although the karma may be small, it’s still important.
To do small things without mindfulness, can cause suffering. If we do something in a hurry, or with aversion, frustration, or distractedness, we might have to do the thing over again, which can cause frustration.
Or we may do the thing wrong, because we’re scatterbrained (like forgetting to put detergent in the laundry, or burning an egg, forgetting to do a task for a client, not caring enough about a task and getting behind on it).
To do all things with mindfulness is to ensure all things go relatively smoothly for us, which prevents suffering and supports our spiritual freedom (liberation, salvation, etc).
Treating All Things Sacred
Also, how we do anything is how we do everything. If we practice mindfulness in the small things, we are more likely to treat larger things with care.
We may think that small things have no impact, so we rush through them (that is my tendency!) But when we do small things without care and mindfulness, we certainly feel the impact of when small things go wrong.
I also haven’t always known how to do all things – even things I don’t like – with joy. But I’m learning.
It takes a decent amount of work, actually! We have to be intentional about doing the things we don’t like with mindfulness. I often have to meditate before doing a task I don’t like, in order to clear my mind and access infinite being. It is only in this state of consciousness that I am able to do what I don’t like with joy and clarity.
But that work is worth it, because why do anything in a way that brings me suffering?
To clarify further, it is our aversions, attachments, and desires that get in the way of mindfulness in the small things. When attachment clouds our consciousness, it distracts us from cooking an egg or doing the laundry with absolute clarity.
Whatever we sit with fully becomes sacred.
If we sit fully with a friend, we make them sacred.
If we sit fully with the process of cooking, cooking becomes sacred.
If we sit fully with doing the laundry, laundry becomes sacred.
The Neuroscience of the Sacred
This also is confirmed by neuroscience. According Dr. John Yates in the Mind Illuminated, we are actually able to train our unconscious mind to make anything feel more important to us (or sacred).
We do this by noticing non-judgmentally when our minds get distracted from the object of our meditation, and then bringing our attention back to the breath (or whatever object we’re using).
Dr. Yates teaches this concept in the context of how to make our unconscious mind value meditation more, which makes it easy to want to meditate on a regular basis, and makes our practice more stable.
But the same can apply to anything we’d like to make important in our lives.
If we want to make friends, family, cooking an egg, or laundry feel sacred in our lives, we have to non-judgmentally notice when our mind gets distracted away from those things.
Is the Direct Presence of God Still More Transcendent Than Object Meditation?
I have always had the assumption that nondual awareness (aka open awareness or the presence of God as it’s classically taught) is the most advanced form of meditative absorption available to humans.
In Hindu Advaita Vedanta, Christian contemplation, as well as Dzogchen and Zen Buddhism, the goal of all meditation is to rest in open awareness. Even Jesus said we can not be truly fruitful unless we abide in him (or rest in his transcendent presence).
But can the sacred transcendence we experience while cooking an egg, truly compare to the transcendence we experience in the open awareness of God?
I would say no. Technically if we are doing anything, we are still in the busier states of beta brain waves. We do not reach deeper meditative absorption until we slow down into alpha and theta brain states, which is usually only reached when we don’t do anything at all (resting in pure being).
So for that reason I would theorize that nondual awareness is still more transcendent than any kind of object meditation. But absorbing oneself in an object can still produce powerful amounts of transcendent joy.
I would love to test this out with a Muse neurofeedback device though!
So, challenge yourself to do all things with mindfulness. Practice open awareness and your breath before doing a mundane task. Focus on that task completely. Notice details you may not have noticed before. Think about the good of whatever you’re doing (the blessing of having a stove to cook on, the rich nutrients found in eggs, the joy of a semi-perfectly cooked egg, the blessing of having food to cook, etc).
You might find yourself starting to enjoy the things you didn’t before!