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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Zen and the Art of Cleaning Up

All my life I've been "On The Quest". At least - since I was 7 years old and spent a summer "thinking".  Picture some 7-year old you know and imagine her lying still on a couch. Imagine asking her what she's doing and having her tell you "I'm thinking".  When you ask her what she's thinking about she tells you "Important things - arithmetic things"  And that's because this particular 7 year old (that was) knew instantly that there was no way she could tell her loving and beloved mother "I'm thinking how soon I can get out of here". The math I was doing was figuring out how many years it would be before I could go out on "The Quest".

I'm not sure I can quite describe what my quest is - though as I get older it's becoming clearer in my Third Eye vision. It has to do with stepping into the flow. Oh dear. There are more alliterative expressions that probably don't mean anything - or mean something different to each one of us. Suffice it to say there is a part of me that is hungry for a sensation - a feeling - a state of being where one knows All Is Well. All is well even if you have to wash dishes or do some other unpleasant chore.

That hunger is not strong enough to get me to become a contemplative - a nun - to leave this delicious temporal world - the here and now - the tactile, audible, scented, flavorful, visible world that ... has  dirty dishes that need washing.

I want both.  I have been reading Thích Nhất Hạnh's beautiful little book The Miracle of Mindfulness. In it he says that you should be fully present in whatever you do. I have never read a better treatise on Not Multi-tasking - and I have been practicing being mindful as often as I can ... be mindful enough to remember.  Thursday night - after guests had departed and family members had talked themselves out, I urged everyone off to bed. I wasn't exactly tired but I wanted to be alone and there was still a little tidying up to do. There was the good silver to get back into the silver boxes and the good china to be put down in that bottom cabinet. Wine glasses had to be washed by  hand and then stored in their cabinet. There were still some bits of food that needed to be wrapped up and refrigerated. There was a dishwasher to unload and enough dirty dishes to run another load.

Now - usually I'm pretty efficient with household chores. Usually I zip through them with my mind on Other Things. I might make a mental grocery list or compose an argument about something I want changed at work or plot out a shopping trip I plan to take.  Thursday night, though, I was just tired enough to remember I had the option of just being fully present in the task of cleaning up. It was the most amazing sensation. I moved continuously - but slowly - and I actually felt the sensation of the forks sliding out of my hand and into the utensil tray in the dishwasher. I heard the clinking sound they made.  They seemed shinier than usual. My fingertips slid across the slippery clean surface of wine glasses. I heard the drawer slide out as I reached for the silver box.

Every movement seemed to have both meaning and purpose. There was a realigning of my house that seemed to send little realignment ripples out into the universe. The whole experience was so delightful that I found myself looking around for More Things To Tidy Up. So I swept up the floor and straightened up the cover on the little couch and bundled up table linen till the whole house looked ready for company again.

And then I went to bed

And slept the sleep of the mindful.

What an amazing experience.

So now - the question is - am I supposed to do my housework like this for the rest of my life or do I slide back into multi-tasking - or perhaps my world should contain a little bit of both.

I think I'll go think about it - because I have always loved thinking.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you.

    P.S. Love the new look of the blog -- especially the top banner and the calm wall paper.