August 1

Zen Ironing

Posted by William Berry | Filed under Blog | 9 Comments

Photo by Alexi Berry

Photo by Alexi Berry

In my review of some of the books I’ve found meaningful I mentioned Zen 24/7 by Sudo. I’m pretty sure he may have addressed Zen ironing, but having not read it in years; I’m going to offer my slant.

Although it may seem so, this blog isn’t about ironing. First, let me say I have been ironing since I was 18. I’m not particularly good at it, but I can make my clothes at least look presentable. A few days ago I was ironing a shirt I had never ironed before. While ironing it, my mind went to several topics. First, I thought of the next blog I would write, returning to an earlier theme of honesty, this time including more on fidelity. Anyhow, I don’t want to give away too much of that blog, but you’ll see it soon enough I guess. So I am ironing this shirt, and my mind is wondering. It is a beautiful shirt, and a recent gift from my now former girlfriend. (Thoughts also probably related to the upcoming blog). It is intricate, and there are aspects of it related to ironing I hadn’t encountered before (I probably sound like a complete idiot right now, but please bear with me). (You may also be wondering why I said this isn’t about ironing yet I keep going on an on about it, but again…)

So here I am, thinking of points I want to make in my next blog, thinking of how people I was close to might react, and I realize I’m not doing a very good job of ironing. There is an intricate (to me at least) part on the sleeve that I start to focus on. I do that ok, and realize by completing that task I all but erased most of the previous ironing. Then the idea of beginners mind dawns on me. In Zen, it is often said to approach everything with beginners mind. In our modern culture we often think ahead, know how to respond from years of previous responding, and anticipate everything. This is basically the opposite of beginners mind. So at this moment, encountering a shirt I hadn’t yet ironed, I realize I need to have beginners mind. At that moment I focus on the ironing, and for a few brief moments, my mind is only focused on that. But then it occurs to me this might be a perfect example of meditation and mindfulness! So then I start writing this blog in my head, all while trying to complete the ironing task.

Now you might be relating to this, or you might be thinking how does this guy who professes to know so much about these Eastern ways fail so miserably at Zen ironing. Either thought is great. There are so many dichotomies in Eastern Philosophy that it is important only to see it all as a whole. Maybe I failed at being mindful for the majority of the exercise. But it is our nature, to a large extent, to fail at this. In meditation it is natural for our mind to wonder. The point is to bring it back to the now. I remember reading in “The Tao is Silent” (see my recommendations for more detail) that the author said it is the goal of one embracing Tao to be more in tune with nature. Then he described how the human race often acts against nature, and tries to control it. And then he discussed how it is man’s nature to try to control nature. (I feel like a LOL should be placed here!)

So what does this all mean? I don’t know; just some rambling thoughts from someone trying to be Zen and one with the Tao. Won’t you join me?

By the way, Philip Toshio Sudo didn’t have a meditation on Zen ironing in his book. Instead he had “Zen Dry Cleaning”. Guess I should focus on getting published so I can have dry cleaning instead of ironing.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, August 1st, 2009 at 6:33 PM and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

9 Responses to “Zen Ironing”

  1. Joha Gochez on August 1st, 2009 at 9:14 PM

    Wow, I have to tell you that you had me reading this blog all the way till the end, and I like the way you turned a simple task as ironing(i hope you didnt burn it) into a very good example of meditation and how our minds wonder.

  2. William Berry on August 1st, 2009 at 9:54 PM

    I’ll take that as quite a compliment. Thank you!

  3. Graciela on August 2nd, 2009 at 8:29 AM

    “In mediation it is natural for our mind to wonder”
    Don’t you mean meditation?

  4. William Berry on August 2nd, 2009 at 9:52 AM

    I certainly do, thank you and I’ll make the correction. Maybe my mind was wondering…or I made a typo.

  5. Oscar Orozco on August 2nd, 2009 at 11:29 AM

    I like it.

    “Guess I should focus on getting published so I can have dry cleaning instead of ironing” Don’t you mean ironing instead of dry cleaning?

    Funny, I am familiar with the concept of approaching everything with a beginner’s mind, allowing yourself to feel anxiety and learning from those “new” experiences. I just never thought it was an eastern concept.

  6. William Berry on August 2nd, 2009 at 12:29 PM

    No, I’m pretty sure dry cleaning is more upscale (someone else cleans and presses your clothes) than washing and ironing your own. I think I’m right on this one.
    Yes, approaching even routine tasks with beginners mind is often mentioned in Eastern thought. It is more applicable to making the routine new and experiencing it as a unique moment in time. I try to apply it in therapy as well. Sometimes someone comes in with a problem you feel you can quickly understand and make recommendations for. But it is often infinitely better to listen attentively to the individual, and not focus on what is like previous experience (although of course this comes into play at times as well).
    Thank you for the comment Oscar.

  7. Ariane on August 3rd, 2009 at 12:26 PM

    Interesting blog. I think artists and writers experience that same stillness and focus that clears away all your thoughts, in the same manner you did while ironing your shirt. I like the use of ironing as an analogy for zen thought and meditation as well.

  8. William Berry on August 3rd, 2009 at 4:05 PM

    Thank you for the comment. I think people get too caught up in what meditation is supposed to be, and give up to easy. It can be very simple, and as I described, it is natural for the mind to wander.

  9. May, Thoughts for… - Blog - William Berry, MS, CAP on May 31st, 2010 at 8:43 AM

    [...] overcome it. But each sitting brought more frustration until I gave up sitting meditation for other Zen Mindfulness exercises. These are excellent exercises, and I still practice these and encourage others to work [...]

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