Friday 11 June 2010

The Zen of Housework

I'm paraphrasing here, but bare with me:  There is a Zen saying that basically translates as "Before enlightenment, clean the house, make the meals, wash the clothes: After Enlightenment, clean the house, make the meals, wash the clothes."

Ok! So that's not the exact translation, but you may get my point... The spiritual path used to be about seeking and gaining enlightenment.  It was pursued within the cloisters of a religious group where, frequently, the washing, cooking and cleaning, was either minimal or - if you were deemed enlightened - probably done by others.

That is no longer the case.  Today, many of us pursue spiritual paths alongside the banal daily activities of washing the floor, cleaning the toilet, making someone else's coffee, fighting to get on the bus/train/tube/plane.  I used to get very frustrated by housework.  It seemed so unfair: how come my husband would assume it was ok for me to clean and cook, when we both had jobs?  Why??!

I spent a long time searching for a way to 'ok' with something that I couldn't change (he does, after all, work 14 hours a day!).  For me the solution came, not from looking at it on the human plane, but trying to see this as part of the soul journey.

I believe that our soul chooses our incarnation and sets up challenges for us to overcome at the human level, so that the soul can grow and develop.  So, in effect, incarnating as a woman was a choice I made at another level.  While I may not be conscious of that choice now, the idea that I had the power to choose this gave me a greater sense of freedom.  When the banal was no longer meaningless, but had a sense of purpose - a challenge for my mind and a new experience for my soul - I felt less resentful.  This was no longer about fairness, it was about my soul's adventure and the challenges that presented to my human self.

The go back to my original point, there will always be mundane, boring tasks.  We need to find ways to be 'ok' with the tasks we find boring, mundane and perhaps even deadening.  For me, finding a meaning that is bigger than the banal helps me create a new meaning and lifts me out of resentment, fear and resentment and takes me a small step closer to moments of peaceful acceptance.

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