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Sometimes an everyday task can become the ideal time for mindfulness meditation.
In Zen philosophy, an individual cannot advance on the paths of enlightenment if internally he is not in order, both in mind and spirit. But more than an end in itself, order is an infinite and intermittent process that always coexists with chaos, and that is duesearch for, since he never comes alone.
That is, we must order if we want order, right? The same happens in our house or any living space, which we must order and clean from time to time. Thus, an orderly space is the perfect metaphor to understand the mental and spiritual order that Zen philosophy speaks of, but it can be more than a metaphor and become the ideal practice to dispel all internal chaos in us on a daily basis.
That is what the Zen monk Shoukei Matsumoto proposes in his bookA Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind, which is already abest seller in Japan. For this peculiar monk, ordering the house or any other living space in a conscious and relaxed way, removing the dust as if we removed it from our own spirit, is a path to enlightenment:
We sweep the dust to remove our earthly desires. We scrub the dirt to free ourselves from our ties. We live simply and take time to contemplate the self.
It is an activity that in Buddhist temples is known assoji: the moment in the morning where, just waking up and before meditating or praying, the monks carry out some specific cleaning task for 20 minutes. Something that, according to Matsumoto, we should all do, because it also has the power both to bring together communities and to quiet solitary spirits. The important thing is that we do it, abstracting ourselves from anything else unrelated to the action we are taking: that we take advantage of the momentmindfulness that each cleaning task involves to contemplate and ponder.
Matsumoto does this with other monks every 2 weeks at the Komyoji Temple in Kyoto, as a way of coexisting and ordering what naturally tends to chaos. That is why for Matsumoto this simple practice is ideal, since it is also something that we have to do from time to time anyway. The question is in what type of energy we put into the inevitable task of cleaning, to transform it from an annoying task into a moment of introspective reflection.
Interestingly, the benefits of tidying up the home have also been proven by science: People who enjoy tidying up their homes are more relaxed and suffer less stress, according to some research. And without a doubt, cleaning the home - even reserving 1 day a week for it - considerably improves the lives of those who live on their own, and makes them more disciplined. So there are only benefits, if we get into the habit of ordering the home.
However, this reminds us why Zen philosophy and practice is so lovely. In it there are no dualisms: the mind is the house and the house is the mind. And as Master Taisen Deshimaru said, "the spiritual is material and the material becomes spiritual."
So the next time you have to sweep, think about this, and make the most of an action that can be as routine and tiring as it is enlightening and enriching.