The Sacred and the Mundane

Flickr Creative Commons Matt Mudd
Flickr Creative Commons Matt Madd

Maybe you love solving complex problems. Or you adore philosophical discussions. Maybe you gaze longingly at the night sky. Or you get giddy when you see a fractal.

And then.

There’s laundry. Taxes. Legos under the sofa. Paperwork. Piles of styrofoam-that-you’ll-recycle-someday in the garage. Job stress. Homework. Peanut butter on the floor.

The sacred and the mundane.

You avoid. You procrastinate. You despair. All of those dull, repetitive, boring tasks. What you yearn for is the intellectual pursuit, the artistic creation or the ten day backpacking adventure in the forest.

Plus, you experience perfectionism.

And you have lots of sensitivities.

All contributing to your frustrations with the mundane tasks.

Man, oh man. This does not look good.

(Now some of you may have the personality traits that demand order and completion. You may deal better with the mundane. Even though you have the same long list of tasks, along with perfectionism and sensitivities. You have a need to clear the clutter and stay on top of your responsibilities before they start to overwhelm you. The stress of not addressing the mundane is worse than taking care of it. You don’t like it but your need for order overrides your sense of boredom. For this post, I’m not worrying about you. Unless, of course, the mundane has the upper hand. Then, read on.)

I’m guessing that you’ve tried many of the recommended techniques. You’ve met the Flylady. You use the 2-minute rule. You hire a bookkeeper or a housekeeper. You give yourself rewards. You invite the neighbors over. Your mother moves in.

And sometimes the techniques work.


But what happens when they don’t?

Then, we need to bring in the heavy hitters.

We ask the Dalai Lama. Thich Nhat Hanh. Martha Stewart.

They gaze at you and smile. Maybe they giggle. Oh, wait, Martha probably doesn’t giggle.

And they tell you something like: What if it’s all sacred? What if all of those boring, mundane, awful tasks are really sacred acts in disguise? What then?

(OK. Maybe Martha tells you how to make a cardboard playhouse for your cat.)

But, the more spiritualicious among us, suggest that one way to tackle the mundane is to find the love in it. Find the miracle in it.

Like  this from Thích Nhất Hạnh–

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”


To my dear blogEEs: I realize that mundane tasks will still be annoying and problematic but I hope that this helps. Please let us know in the comments how you cope with the everyday boring stuff and also how you make the time for intellectual stimulation and creative expression.

Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

30 responses to “The Sacred and the Mundane”

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  1. ARY Avatar

    Thanks. Been there. Some days the joy and sacredness of the mundane helps. Some days I know it’s there but can’t see or feel it. On those days, if recognizing the sacredness adds to the guilt of not wanting to do the mundane, for I’m rebelling not only against my duties but against sacred duties, then what?

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Ah, yes, guilt. Doesn’t help. But maybe you can allow yourself to rebel some of the time. I don’t know anyone who can be in touch with the sacred in the mundane all of the time. And maybe some things are just mundane and frustrating!

  2. holbart Avatar

    For me, I have had to make a mid-life course correction to handle my emotional intensity. I couldn’t even approach the mundane without doing this. I used to burrow all that intensity down into the ground. In and down, in and down, like a taproot in the tundra. It’s how I survived abuse. Now, because the people in my life still can’t handle the intensity, I have learned how to spread the intensity out like paint on a big canvas, across many different interests and groups of friends. I imagine that God gives me a few gallons of paint every day and says, “Go and use it all today; I will give you more tomorrow.” I’ve come to appreciate just how big a canvas I need to use up all that paint. If I don’t use up most of the intensity every day, there is no approaching the mundane. The loss for me, in this regard, is that few people get more than a small part of me, which means loneliness at the deeper levels, but the gain for me is that I get to give more of my whole self to the world each day. I get to be more me.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Thank you for this description. These are wonderful images and I think many readers will benefit from seeing how you manage your emotional intensity. Beautiful. Thank you.

  3. mphinton Avatar

    Holy moly. You really nail it in these posts, Paula.

    Thank you so much for the validation. Now back to my Pema Chodron bedtime reading.

  4. Vanessa Avatar

    I get overwhelmed and paralyzed by the mundane. Then I don’t do anything at all, mundane or stimulating, and then I get depressed and angry that I can’t manage to do anything. So, recently I started playing audio books while I clean the house. And just this last week I started playing a recording of the Moola Mantra. it works beautifully. I accomplish my tasks with out feeling drained or overwhelmed. My intention was not to make my tasks sacred, but perhaps I have with out realizing it. Perfect timing, as always, Paula! Thank you!

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Audio books, yes! I’ll have to check out Moola Mantra. Sounds intriguing.

  5. black sheep Avatar
    black sheep

    It is so easy to set up organization, but so hard to get all family members on board with the maintenance of said organization. Then you are back to square one trying to contain chaos and communicate the plan. Heaven help you once it has gotten ahead of you! I have plans in my head of designated tasks to specific members, if only I could get the pinterest perfect schedule and lists set up amidst the chaos of the house, two full time work schedules, dance, gymnastics and swim lessons, as well as the micromanaging (aka advocating) the schooling of gifted children. They all deplete my time energy and determination ….. Perfectionism plays a nasty double edge sword! Slowly the chaos is winning!

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Oh no! Don’t let the chaos win!!

  6. Atlas Educational Avatar
    Atlas Educational

    Mundane has its place. It keeps us somewhat de-cluttered which helps with our creativity. When the mundane gets overwhelming is when I’m most drained of my contentment. Not sure I can look to the mundane as sacred since I’d be over-analyzing every movement, but getting it done to feel clean and clear helps.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Good point to remember. Getting de-cluttered helps the creativity. Thanks!

  7. Chiara Avatar

    Paula, thanks. You Made me Cry… Each time I read one of your posts I wonder “How can You understand me so deeply ?”how can You know that i’ve tried all those methods and that I Also have a Dalai Lama book near my bed?
    I’ m struggling hardly with “the mundane ” , I’ll try to remember this sentence “the real miracle is to walk on earth”. Thanks again, with all your writings You make me feel that I’ m not alone on earth !

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Yes, Chiara, you’re not alone. Thank you for sharing.

  8. telperion1214 Avatar

    I shoot for balance. I don’t try to get all the mundane chores done but I try to get some of them done, and then pat myself on the back and go do something fun / rewarding. I’m always grateful for mundane chores that I do and do well, because they get done in a way that meets my standards.
    And if someone else offers to take them on, I let them come out however. This has been a hard-won lesson for me, not to stand over and direct from my own perfectionistic point of view.
    I am so grateful to have survived the years of small children and no help. Even then, I did not worry too much about it. A neighbor commented on my floors one time, and I told her she was welcome to stay home with her spotless floors if mine did not meet with her approval. 🙂
    Long story short: I have learned that if I want to create, I must relax. 🙂

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Balance and relaxation. Sound good to me.

  9. The Sacred and the Mundane | incrediblejourneyofgiftedness

    […] The Sacred and the Mundane. […]

  10. patchworkpoppies Avatar

    Reblogged this on patchwork poppies and commented:
    I guess this is the reason my mom always said cleanliness is godliness. My mom was our version of Martha Stewert. Very organized and clean. I always found it fascinating how my mom and I are polar opposites. I won’t lie, I use to wish (I still do wish) I had her organizational skills and her unending thirst for order. Thank you Paula for this fun read.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Thanks for the reblog!

  11. patchworkpoppies Avatar

    Oh my Paula this is too funny! Well this sacred act is getting old… I’m kidding. With 3 kids under 3 I’m walking in circles picking up toys. Oh do I dream of the days when making my bed and doing a couple dishes was all I had to do. Now I’m vacuuming 5x a day and million other things I could bore you with. Though that cat cardboard house is quite interesting and funny. In all honesty this hits home and it’s so true.
    I always say it’s all about attitude!

    1. patchworkpoppies Avatar

      Correction 3 kids under 4

    2. paulaprober Avatar

      Wow. 3 kids under 4. Wow. Even Martha Stewart might be challenged…

  12. Liz Avatar

    I needed to hear this… I was actually just lamenting the everyday chores that go on forever… the tasks that once done immediately are undone. Thanks for the reminder, and knowing that I am not alone in this feeling does help. That said, I often long for a simpler life with less of the to-do’s and more time for the exciting and enjoyable…a hut on the beach perhaps? In the meantime I will try to keep a more positive perspective and enjoy some nice music while doing the less than interesting yet sacred tasks…

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Thanks Liz. I also find music helps everything!

  13. peggymulkey Avatar

    Stacey, She is talking to us, the high point of my day!! She quoted, ” Thích Nhất Hạnh”, had you ever heard of him before yoga?? Okay, we are screwed, let’s not screw RG & Lia, lets show up for their life, I can get her Thursday Morning or Petit Farm is having an open house Sat. I would love to take her it is very educational!!!!! I love y’all soo much!!! Auntie Peg

  14. sarah Avatar

    I consider all things sacred. And I think it helps to have appreciation for what a blessing it is that we experience life – getting to have clothes to launder, and a floor to sweep, and children to clean up after. I also can’t understand how doing everyday tasks can be boring so long as I carry my imagination with me. I may be sweeping the floor, but on another level I am dreaming of adventure, or solving a problem, or planning a lesson.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Yes, Sarah, always keep your imagination with you no matter what you’re doing. Great idea. And life itself is such a blessing. Thank you for sharing.

  15. rinasalesia Avatar

    Mmm I try to do the boring stuff while thinking about what I truly like. Of course when I get inspired, the boring task will not be completed…say, I’m cleaning the house and a poetic bit sprungs-up in my head…I’ll type it in my phone and than…bye bye cleaning(-:s

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Ah, yes, there’s the challenge. How to get back to the cleaning once the poetry comes. But isn’t it interesting how sometimes the mundane task will get the creative mind moving?

  16. Bob Yamtich Avatar
    Bob Yamtich

    I have struggled with some types of executive functioning, so I’m elated that I just did laundry and made the bed. Fully, pillows and all. I could giggle, starting and finishing a project. Love your article; the mundane is sacred.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Thanks for the comment, Bob. Congrats on getting things done.