One of the main tenets of engaged Buddhism is that the domain of everyday life and the domain of spiritual development are not, in essence, separate. Almost any activity, no matter how "ordinary," can be approached in the spirit of engaged practice, as an opportunity for the cultivation of awareness, selflessness, and compassion.
This is not a new teaching. More than a thousand years ago, in the Chan (Zen) monasteries of China, farming and manual labor were recast as religious practice. Carrying water could equal seated meditation as a form of training; gathering wood could equal a wise sermon as an expression of spiritual insight. The thirteenth-century Japanese Zen master Dogen stated this principle in terms of the Dharma:
Those who see worldly life as an obstacle to Dharma see no Dharma in everyday actions; they have not yet discovered that there are no everyday actions outside of Dharma.
When the nitty-gritty terrain of ordinary experience seems too far removed from the promised fruits of spiritual life, we yearn for ways to bridge the gap. Yesterday was scattered, today is slipping away, tomorrow there are countless things to be done. Is it possible to experience clarity and calm amid the commotion of everyday activity? The titles of several recent books testify to our longing to touch the transcendent within the mundane:
Start Where You Are
Wherever You Go, There You Are
Peace Is Every Step
Present Moment, Wonderful Moment
Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand