“Do you need gloves? Gather all your cleaning supplies. Make sure you squirt the soft scrub in the toilet and let it sit while…” I was getting the instructions on how to clean the bathrooms while I was attending the four-day silent retreat last week.
Is there any household cleaning chore more dreaded than tackling a dirty bathroom?
I remembered telling my mom that if I ever had to do that chore I would work to make money to pay someone to do it for me. How I have changed!
Now, after years of practice, I can perceive cleaning toilet bowls as a meditative practice. That is, since I started to think of cleaning as a practice in loving, caring, and making a difference.
“When we shift from negatively complaining to positively affirming, conditions change. Then complaining is no longer the operative law in our life-freedom is.”
– Michael Bernard Beckwith
How can we apply this understanding to our everyday life for the things we perceive as boring, dirty, and unpleasant? This might be preparing Excel spreadsheets, gathering data from all over, drilling a hole, dealing with co-workers; whatever you dread. Can you change the meaning you give to the dreaded task and see if your emotions towards that task will change as well?
We are so conditioned by the ideas that pour out of our TVs, radios, internet and social media – and often, our friends and family. We are conditioned by ideas that we must do certain tasks, wear a certain brand, drive a certain car, make a certain income; so conditioned that we start living in fear, worry, and lack.
May I invite you to break free from the hold of what we may have accepted until now that we should be like, and no longer consider as trendsetters those people who are simply admired and imitated without having actually accomplished anything? Let us connect to what matters to us and attend to our everyday tasks and life as practices of love, care, and making a difference.
So, where can you start?
Witness or experience the resistance, and then remind yourself to focus your attention not just on the dirt, the boredom, the discomfort, but on the beauty, the support, the difference you are making. Joy and beauty are available to you in the seemingly mundane activities that you do. Notice the gentleness here of the reorientation; it is a subtle shift in perspective. Be present in the here and now, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant the experience may be, and you can surprise yourself.
Keep in mind that our approach to physical dirt, boredom, or discomfort trains us to straightforwardly deal with non-physical dirt at every level. Maybe the tasks that are seen as stressful or exhausting can take on a new meaning. Why not give it a try?