A memoir recommended for those who yearn to get away from the uneasiness and messes of life but are open to accepting the way things are including the everyday messes.
Karen Maezen Miller is a Zen Buddhist priest and meditation teacher at the Hazy Moon Center in Los Angeles, California. She calls herself an errant wife, delinquent mother, reluctant dog walker, and expert laundress. Miller is a lyrical writer who tutors us in the art of discovering "the inexpressible beauty that comes tucked inside ordinary life." She describes the three parts of this book as doing the laundry where we open to the wisdom that resides inside us, washing the dishes where we bring that wisdom to life in compassionate action, and tending the yard where we sow peace in the place where we live.
We are great lovers of books about everyday spirituality where practice comes through chores, encounters with objects and possessions, and relationships with those closest to us, including our animal companions. Whereas many people don't find much pleasure in doing the laundry, Miller does because she sees it as giving us "an honest encounter with ourselves before we're freshened and fluffed and sanitized." The author deals with the breakup of her marriage and the strain of building a new life. She takes up meditation, yoga, and finds a teacher, Maezumi Roshi.
In the section of the book called "The Kitchen," Miller confronts her uneasiness with the messes of life and the yearning to get away from it all. She recalls one of Maezumi Roshi's favorite phrases: "Let's see how it goes." For her it has become the key to enlightened living — to accept the mess and the way things go, moment after moment.
"The search for greater meaning robs our life of meaning," Miller writes. Many of us are challenged to find scraps of meaning in our roles as marriage partners and parents. Miller shares the joys and frustrations in both. But these relationships are like the kitchen where there is always something to be done or cleaned up: "We can only love the world we wake up to. The world where things change, dishes get dirty, we age, we get sick, and one day we die."
The last section of the book is called "The Yard." In her garden, Miller finds all that she needs. Such as the insight: "Attention is the most concrete expression of love. What we pay attention to thrives. What we do not pay attention to withers and dies. What will you pay attention to today?" Miller also shares her thoughts about time, multitasking, impermanence, little kindnesses, and making peace. Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life by Karen Maezen Miller is just enough: a Zen master's celebration of everyday spirituality.