After The Laundry, The Legacy

4 min readMar 21, 2023

By Marlis Jansen with Lily Boyar

Meditation and mindfulness have been part of the zeitgeist for some time now. But it can feel like mindfulness is for people with a lot of time on their hands. However, this is a myth. You don’t have to be an enlightened yogi to participate in these practices on a regular basis.

I recently read a book by Jack Kornfield called, After the Ecstacy, The Laundry. It addresses meditation as a practice that teaches us how to apply mindfulness to our whole lives, the idea being to bring intentional awareness to everything we do. Mindfulness is not a separate pursuit in and of itself, but a lens through which we can view each aspect of our lives differently, even our most tedious tasks. The proverbial “laundry,” is a metaphor for all the things that make up our day to day; like work, caregiving, errands, and chores. Most of us don’t have the ability to meditate for hours on end, but if we integrate the principles of mindfulness into our daily lives, anything we do can be meditative.

These ideas got me thinking about the way that I balance my everyday obligations with my goals and hopes for the future. How can I make sure that I attend to the bigger picture when the “laundry” is what is staring me in the face each day? When do I make time to contemplate the things that are more important to me? Perhaps this type of reflection doesn’t happen when I am dropping off my kids, or the dry cleaning, or standing in line at Trader Joes. But it could. The reality is, we are all balancing what we have to do with what we want to do. And at the end of the day, I will have a legacy, whether I like it or not. How can I be more intentional about that?

Separating the Laundry

We separate the light and dark loads of laundry to keep colors from bleeding into each other. This is an apt metaphor for how we can organize our lives. We often react to the needs of the moment or the “tyranny of the urgent,” as my good friend calls it. The demands of our jobs, family, household and calendar take over unless we save time for what is most important to us. Suddenly all the colors blend together, time goes by, and we’re left yearning from something more meaningful. Separating the laundry is an opportunity to be mindful about how and with whom we spend our time.

Sometimes laundry can build up and become overwhelming. (I’ve certainly got a pile waiting to get done). When we get overwhelmed by the minutia in our lives, its helpful to set up strategies for noticing when the laundry builds up. Just noticing when you reach this state can be very powerful. If there is a person in your life that can be an accountability partner, all the better.

What is Legacy, Actually?

A legacy is made up of the contributions (“the doing”) and the human qualities (“the being”) that remain in the minds of those that know us, during and after our lifetimes. Our legacies are constantly being shaped.

The doing refers to what you do with your time. It is cumulative. As businessman, investor and author, Ben Horowitz says, “what you do is who you are.” Part of my family’s legacy, for example is the founding of a summer camp in Ohio that is still going strong after three generations. But the doing of our legacy can also include our simple daily tasks like my mom’s home cooked meals each night growing up. And lucky me that I still get to enjoy them.

The being aspect of legacy, refers to the human qualities that are memorialized in the people who touch our lives. Who we are as people, how we make others feel, and the quality of our relationships during our lifetime leave a lasting impact. In fact, despite Ben Horowitz’s view, research shows that we remember how people make us feel more than the specifics of what they do. Arguably the being might contribute more to our legacies than the doing.

While our legacies are also shaped by what we have, such as money and other material resources, we are most perceived and remembered for the intangible ways we show up in the world, regardless of our wealth status. Ideally, and at any level, our resources can help us support projects, people and causes we care about, during and after our lives. We can be purposeful even with very limited resources. Check out this article, to learn more about how legacy can be shaped by stewardship.

So What?

When I initially read Jack Kornfield’s book, I was struck by the idea of incorporating mindfulness into our lives, even with the mundane tasks like washing a load of laundry. This got me thinking, what else can I do more intentionally? It is a fairly simple idea. And maybe by embracing the simple, we can get to the really good stuff. My legacy is being formed with every action I take, big and small. I’ve decided to make a ritual of asking myself these questions on a regular basis:

  1. What is in my laundry basket?
  2. Am I contributing in a way that feels meaningful to me?
  3. What is getting in the way of doing what I really want to do?
  4. Who can I lean on for support?

What would your answers be?




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