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When sweeping just sweep


My favorite chapter in Buddhism for Mothers of Young Children is 'what can I do about all the housework'. What indeed. Housework is very loaded. There are gender issues, class issues, how is the house this messy issues. It has traditionally been done by women and has not been valued much. These days, cleaning the house is viewed as anti-feminist oppression and the waste of an educated mind. That's one perspective, anyway. It has been mine a lot of the time.

Napthali raises the possibility that while trying to get it done to move on to 'meaningful work' and 'me time' we may be missing the point. She quotes Thich Nhat Hahn on washing the dishes:

"If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not 'washing the dishes to wash the dishes'. What's more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can't wash the dishes, the chances are we won't be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future -- and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life."

There is great appeal to spending cleaning time planning other 'more important' events, listening to podcasts to stop 'wasting' time, or thinking of the ways we are wronged in having to clean up the mess. However it is a unique opportunity to spend time in mindfulness. So many of the quiet, repetitive tasks of the past have been taken over by automation, to our great relief. This has freed men and women alike up for complex thinking and great achievements. What we have lost is open, quiet time, when we can practice seeing what is right in front of us.

I will be speaking on spirituality in everyday domestic life at the Southern Alberta Permaculture Convergence on July 9th.

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