The Magical Laundrymat

Yesterday was laundry day, which meant a trip down to the Magical Laundrymat. Yes, that’s what it is actually called, an unassuming place with a name that always makes me laugh. Magical? Laundry? My experience there had always been absolutely mundane.

Laundry is one of my least favorite chores. I put it off as long as possible. Then I find ways to spend the least amount of time in the actual laundrymat. I put my washer load in, set a timer on my phone for 28 minutes, then go run an errand like mailing a letter at the post office, or washing the car. At minute 27 I go back in and move the clothes to the dryer, reset the timer for 32 minutes, and find something else to do. Usually I go sit in my car with a book.

Except this time I forgot my book. Doh!! I thought about walking the couple blocks home to get my book, but by the time I got back the laundry would be finished anyway. My familiar bugaboo, boredom, loomed large.

A little voice in my head went off: “Hey, Mindfulness Teacher! What if you just did nothing?” I sat down on a bench and crossed my arms, resisting the idea. I saw the timer on the dryer: 28 minutes to go. Sure seemed like a long time to do nothing.

A spiritual lesson just waiting to be discovered.

A spiritual lesson just waiting to be discovered.

I drew a few deep breaths and gazed at the dryer, the tumbler going round and round and round. Round and round and round. I felt mesmerized. The rhythm of the motor began to take over the buzz in my head. I picked out a piece of clothing, a red top, and watched it circling around and around. Then another piece caught my attention, my pink bunny-print pajamas, and I followed its circuital route with my eyes. Then a black sock took over.

Suddenly it occurred to me: this is like meditation! Thoughts flit across the tumble dryer of the mind like clothing. We latch onto these thoughts and follow them, churning them around and around. But we don’t have to.

I softened my gaze, letting the image of the dryer go blurry so it was just a wash of color like an Impressionist painting. I could still detect movement, but instead I focused on the image as a whole. Clothing coming and going, thoughts coming and going, breath coming and going. I felt peaceful.

A buzzer went off and the tumbler stopped. My laundry was done. I was surprised by how quickly the time had passed. I realized then why the place was called the Magical Laundrymat, and how little moments of inner sight can come from the most mundane of chores. I vowed to leave my book at home the next time, too.

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