In monastery, all visitors and monastics practice the Eastern custom of removing their shoes before entering a meditation hall. At a retreat I recently attended, a tai chi student told me, “My master said that you can always tell the level of a person’s consciousness by the way they leave their shoes at the door.” When I left the hall, I surveyed the long line of shoes outside the door. Most of them were lined up neatly next to one another. Then there were mine, criss-crossed and strewn out of line. Oops!

Heaven is gained or lost not just by dramatic deeds, but by the little acts of daily living. A Zen maxim states: “If you can serve a cup of tea cor­rectly, you can do anything,” meaning that we can use any mundane act as a meditation to create harmony and beauty. The Japanese have an elab­orate ancient tea ceremony in which the server must be very present and conscious of every minute act that comprises the ritual. 

I heard a talk by a man who knew Suzuki Roshi, a master who popu­larized Zen in the West. “Everything Roshi did was a meditation,” the man recounted. “Once I watched him eat an apple. By the time he had gotten to the core, the apple was clean and sculpted. All sides were perfectly bal­anced, and there was no waste. It was a piece of art. ” 

We can make our life a work of art by paying attention to the details of daily living. Let everything be a dance in which we create poise and grace. It’s the highest game there is.