I went to St. Louis last week with my dad to do work on his mom's house. I initially thought I was going by myself, but since moving out, it was nice to spend the time with him.
While I have yet to participate in any sort of soji at the Zen Center, I did get to treat this work as such. After all, my grandma's house is essentially a temple that houses people I care about.
The biggest aspect of what I did, that reflects the silent nature of soji, was power-washing the outside. Due to the noise of the compressor, I didn't have the option of listening to anything on my iPod, let alone talk with someone. I had to be very mindful of what I was doing since there was a great deal of really caked on dirt and other stuff like mildew. I didn't have space for my mind to wander since every stroke of the washer's wand had to be precise to remove the debris.
It was a very pleasant experience. Usually my favorite cleaning task is sweeping or mopping, especially large areas. I really enjoy the physicallity of it for some reason. I was able to experience this in an odd way washing the driveway. The low pressure (for a power-washer) reduced the effective cleaning area to about two inches wide. This made the whole process like a sweeping a couple hundred square feet with a two inch paintbrush.
I've never really minded doing tasks like this and have definitely done my share. One of my favorites was working at a fast food restaurant putting together the boxes in which chicken fingers were served while working the back drive thru window. I used to get to watch the South Texas sunset almost everyday.
I used to use this an opportunity to daydream, since they were never tasks that took much effort or focus. Now I use them as an opportunity for mindful practice. I pay attention to my breath and posture while performing each moment of the task as perfectly as I can. I know each time won't be perfect, but I can't fix it once it happens so I just keep swimming along in the moment one by one.
Just like zazen, my mind wanders every once in a while, but I just come back to what I'm doing without being hard on myself. I am only human after all.
I do have questions about how to fully perform other kitchen duties that require you to pay attention to different things at the same time, but hope to have them answered soon.