I've always thought of cleaning as therapeutic - and I actually don't mind it, as my jumbled mind seems to clear as I perform my daily chores. Lately I've been thinking, perhaps housekeeping has a spiritual value to it. This is not an original thought for the world - just for me. In Zen monasteries, chores are referred to as Work Practice and hold definite spiritual value. And many have written on the subject of housework as spiritual practice, from Thich Nhat Hanh in The Miracle of Mindfulness to Gary Thorp in Sweeping Changes.
If neatness alone determined one's level of spiritual enlightenment, I think I would be quite advanced, as I am somewhat obsessive about keeping a tidy and minimalist-inspired home. Here are a few of my tenets:
1. Everything has a place and must return to it by the end of the day.
2. When something new comes in, something old goes out.
3. Nothing in life is permanent - it is OK to let things go. Consider it a gift to the universe. Take the karma and release the clutter.
So, I have three work practice missions nagging at me here in early 2009. Inspired by my friend Laura's birthday gift to herself, I have launched Mission 1: Clean Fridge. The task - clean out all old stuff and the unit itself; even those nasty drawers. The good part is the reward - a shopping at Whole Foods to restock (this is such a nice healthy gift to give yourself, Laura).Mission 2: Vanishing Toys is also inspired in part by Laura, who actually got Santa Clause to come in and remove bins of old toys from her boys' room on Christmas Eve (read about it here). I must be stealth, like Old St. Nick, to pull this one off. It involves making many unnecessary and underloved toys magically disappear from my girls' rooms. The reward for them is more room for imaginative play. For me...less stuff to pick up, of course!Finally, Mission 3: Magazine Control. The stacks have grown out of control and something must be done. My mother isn't helping on this one, as she kicked this mission off at her house before me, and is sifting all her cut-up issues down to me to love on briefly before I too let them go (get ready Tonya - they're coming your way!). Mission 3's reward is sweet: lots of inspiration torn out and stored for just the right place & time and new material for my vision board.
This will be my work practice this month. I'm pretty sure it won't result in enlightenment - but a clean, well-stocked fridge, less clutter and a full well are certainly all divine pursuits!
PS - Want to join in on one of my missions? Commit here and let me know how it goes. Or tell me your own work practice for January - maybe I'll adopt it too!